The world is strange again.

On the morning of the snowstorm, I am awake at the usual time. There’s no rush to get going. Still, I turn on the coffee and check “what happened overnight on the Internets,” as Jimmy would joke.

From my father, I read a gang email to all five of his children, exhorting us to clean off our cars before the temperature drops below freezing. His message may affect each of my siblings differently, but me, I feel watched over in a good way.

I put on my gear and go outside. Jimmy shovels; I clear the cars properly, even their roofs, and then I shovel around them.

Any mug can be a travel mug, depending on where you're going.

Snow removal from the cars, driveway, and sidewalk takes about 90 minutes. We jam the shovels in a snowbank — it’s great snow for igloo-making, why don’t we make one? — and walk over to the shops at Putterham Circle. Only two are open: the convenience store and Starbucks. While there are no cars in the rotary that feeds the shopping center, inside Starbucks it is steamy with people.

For once, no cars in Putterham Circle.

All footprints lead to the coffee source.

Then we walk, lattes in hand. It’s easy to shuffle across the intersection and down South Street. We walk and walk and pass only a few neighbors, here and there, out shoveling or snow-blowing. Ogden Street has not yet been plowed, and on the snow’s surface are chestnuts, still in their pods, that have just fallen.

Jimmy walks blithely down the middle of South.

Now, this is still life.

We see these fresh wounds everywhere.

Near Bournewood, we throw our empty cups into a dumpster in a driveway.

As we walk through the hospital grounds, I say, “I think Anne Sexton stayed here. And perhaps Robert Lowell.” Jimmy asks, “And Sylvia Plath?” McLean, in Belmont.

An impatient plow forces us off Bournewood’s main road into an open space. The snow makes me notice, for the first time, an old volleyball net. “The world is strange again,” I say. “I feel, oh, ten years old, like the day is for exploring.”

The snow is unexplored at Bournewood and this deep by 10am.

An old net, made noticeable by the snow, where patients are never seen playing.

Jimmy says, “Days like this are slow. They make me slow down. No multi-tasking.” The scene also reminds him, he adds, of a nuclear winter. “What do you mean?” I ask. “No color,” he says.

Everywhere we look, the branches of spruce and pine trees are bent down to the snow, making little hideaways for creatures. I go in one.

If we were kids again, we might make a fort of this.

Suddenly, my legs are stinging with cold. I feel my glutes as though they are big hunks of meat. I think, too, of animal haunches as big hunks of meat that we cook and eat. “Let’s run a little,” I say, and we go home quickly, my legs warming up.

The decrepit house, where hoarders might live, is softened by snow and a water drop.

Near home, Jimmy sees this pair. "Ah, I remember that," he says.

On the Internets are two more messages from Dad to add to the first:

  1. It would be a good idea to clear all snow and ice off of an outdoor car to prevent a future frozen car door.
  2. Make sure your windshield wipers are free and clear of ice before you turn them on. A good trick I use is to lift the wipers off the windshield into an erect position so that they don’t freeze to the window.
  3. Open each car door and with a rag wipe the moisture from the rubber gasket, so that you won’t be surprised by frozen doors.

Done, done, not done.

It’s a good day also for indoor chores and cooking. I make milk punch, prompted by Brian having posted the link on Facebook. I sand and seal the top of the kitchen table. Later, George, Grace, and I make cookies. There’s some talk of scallion pancakes, but by then I’m done.

Adult treat: bourbon, half and half, vanilla, sugar. Freeze into slush.

Old table, renewed again.

This may be as close to a handmade fire as we ever get.

The kids start to wish for a second snow day, and I secretly share their hope.

Thursday morning, we try to get going a little early, to leave time to warm up the cars, distribute boots, and collect the coats and gloves that have been drying in the basement near the furnace.

In the backyard, away from the scraped roads, the world still looks strange, and as though it will patiently wait for us until there is time again for a long ramble.

Old tree, old birdhouse, dormant compost, summer chairs. They wait for us.

10 thoughts on “The world is strange again.

  1. A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your day. And I love the photos. Knowing the area, I can appreciate the beauty in its stillness.

  2. I love snow days for all of these same reasons — when everything’s covered in snow, it’s just so quiet and surreal, and yet makes me feel all the more rooted to the place, to the community, knowing that everyone around is experiencing the same strangeness. This post also makes me miss my own father in an exquisitely poignant way; thank you for channeling him for me 🙂

  3. Shelley said, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.” Snow lays a literal veil over the world, which creates much the same effect.

  4. @S Pines — Yes, I too think about everyone experiencing the same strangeness. That’s comforting.

    @Pamela — Reading the Shelley line you quoted, I grasped that snow is a veil (literal) and yet also lifts the veil, by making the world not familiar (metaphorical). And maybe poetry also has to do both. I think Bishop’s “The Fish” does that. The accumulation of detail makes the fish strange to us, yet by making it strange also makes it, for the first time, known.

    I’ve only had two sips of coffee so far today. This deserves more investigation — the snow/poetry as veil and veil-lifter — and, always, more coffee.

  5. dear jane, so wonderful to hear about your Boston winter days! Reminds me of those days years ago…would like to share a cup of coffee with you right away.

  6. Lovely day, even lovelier post. When I was growing up we had a huge white-pine tree in the backyard, which made a wonderful secluded shelter from the snow. I’d totally forgot about making forts out there until I read this and saw your evocative photo–thanks for conjuring such a good memory.

    Could your dad include me on his snow-day e-mail list? I could use those kinds of reminders, too. :^)

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