Snow on Snow

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago.

From “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti

The sky had been completely clouded over by two-thirty and it had begun to snow an hour later, and this time you didn’t need a weatherman to tell you it was serious snow, no flurry that was going to melt or blow away when the evening wind started to whoop. At first it had fallen in perfectly straight lines, building up a snowcover that coated everything evenly, but now, an hour after it had started, the wind had begun to blow from the northwest, and the snow had begun to drift against the porch and the sides of the Overlook’s driveway. Beyond the grounds the highway had disappeared under an even blanket of white. The hedge animals were also gone, but when Wendy and Danny had gotten home, she had commended him on the good job he had done. Do you think so, he had asked and said no more. Now the hedges were buried under amorphous white cloaks…

“Will it ever be spring?” Wendy murmured.

Jack squeezed her tighter. “Before you know it. What do you say we go in and have some supper? It’s cold out here…”

So they went in together, leaving the wind to build the low-pitched scream that would go on all night—a sound they would get to know well. Flakes of snow swirled and danced across the porch. The Overlook faced it as it had for nearly three-quarters of a century, its darkened windows now bearded with snow, indifferent to the fact that it was now cut off from the world. Or possibly it was pleased with the prospect. Inside its shell the three of them went about their early evening routine, like microbes trapped in the intestine of a monster.

From The Shining, by Stephen King.

The kids have been out of school all week and Beth’s been home from work, too, but yesterday was the first day we were really snowed in. Tuesday the streets were imperfectly cleared, but clear enough for us to brave the roads and drive to Silver Spring, where the Blue Gingko’s mom had suggested a meet-up at Panera and Borders. The Blue Holly’s family came, too, as well as some of the Blue Gingko’s neighbors. We ate bagels and cake, drank coffee and tea, chatted with people unrelated to ourselves, browsed for books and bought Valentine’s presents for the kids on the sly, and read to children other than our own all because we knew we wouldn’t be able to do any of these things for a while because another storm was coming, another big one.

But yesterday we couldn’t go anywhere. We couldn’t even play in the yard because of more or less constant high winds and occasional white out conditions. None of us left the house except when I ventured out into the yard for a few minutes to snap some pictures. The snow is too drifted to get a good measurement but it’s up well past my hips. The wind has blown it everywhere. The windows were blotted with it yesterday, though by now that snow has mostly blown away or melted. This morning we had two inches of snow on the porch and four inches on the porch steps and our house is a 1920s bungalow with a long overhang over the porch and stairs if you are familiar with that architectural style. The wind howled all day yesterday and for the first time I appreciated that as a literal description of the sound, not as a metaphor. Icicles dangled from the gutters at the front and back of the house, looking like monsters’ teeth.

Yesterday morning around nine June asked me, “Mommy, can we go soon?” June likes outings and I almost always take her somewhere in the morning even if I need to manufacture a reason. When I told her we weren’t going anywhere, she frowned and said, “I have to ask Bef something,” and sought her out. “Bef, do you have any errands?” she wanted to know. Beth said no, we really weren’t going anywhere. So June wanted to know if we could play in the yard then and when we said no, she was beside herself. She was irritable all day long and prone to tantrums. I let her watch an extra episode of Super Why on the computer on top of her regular television and computer time and around four-thirty, I took her down to the basement and let her jump on Noah’s trampoline until she was worn out.

I was feeling antsy, too. I like my routine and there’s been no trace of it this week. Even the things I normally do on snow days or other days school is cancelled (go to the regular Circle Time at the library on Tuesday mornings or to the Co-op Story Time on Wednesdays) were out of the question. The library is closed and I don’t even know whether the Co-op was open yesterday. I didn’t call because there was no way we could have gotten there.

So the kids probably spent too much time on the computer playing games and making videos of themselves. But I helped them clean their room and I quizzed Noah on the state capitals just in case he ever goes back to school and competes in the twice-postponed Geo-Bowl. In the afternoon, I made a chocolate-mint truffle cake and a hearty dinner of vegetarian sausage, mashed turnip, Munster cheese melted on dark rye and sauerkraut. But I think I would have appreciated all that heavy food more if I’d been able to get outside and move around more.

But today we got to move around plenty. I shoveled for over two hours and as I write, Beth’s been at it for well over three hours. Noah helped a little with the shoveling (in between his efforts to balance precariously on our lawn furniture and knock icicles off the gutter with a stick) and we hired three enterprising young men with shovels to dig out the driveway. Earlier this morning, Beth and June made a snow alligator and a snow-farmer menaced by said alligator. The roads, at least the ones we can see from our house, are plowed; the sky is a brilliant, cloudless blue and high temperatures are supposed to be in the mid to high thirties for the next four days.

I’m hoping that by tomorrow, a walk to Starbucks (normally a fifteen-minute affair) won’t be out of the question and that the “possible snow” forecast for Monday does not materialize because Tuesday is the day the children are supposed to return to school for the first time in a week and a half for Noah and two weeks for June. I am just starting to see glimmers of normalcy on the horizon, so I really don’t want it to come to anything resembling a scene from my very favorite novel.