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Friday, 23 January 2015

Snow time

I arrived in the North Country after the last of the previous winter's snows had fallen. Cherry trees were in blossom in the suburbs of Boston, but the oaks, the birches, the beech trees and the maples were yet to receive their Spring foliage. There was still snow on the mountain-tops, and even a still-frozen waterfall by the side of the road at Kinsman Notch. I remarked that I had not seen snow close up for more than 42 years, only to be told that I should not worry as I would see plenty within the following 12 months.


The first snow of this winter just happened to fall on November 14th, the day Liz and I moved from the minuscule apartment we had occupied since my arrival on May 1st. At the time of writing, more than 2 months later, it is still lying on the ground. I recall following New Hampshire's weather last year while still in the Eastern Cape, and remember that the daytime temperature had hardly risen above freezing for more than 3 months. Well, I can now tell you that apart from a period of about 4 or 5 days, the daytime temperature has remained below freezing since that first snow of winter fell, and as I write, it has actually risen as far as freezing point before falling again as the sun goes down.


Not having seen snow close up for several decades, I had forgotten what it looked like. The last time I can recall was at Christmastime 1969 or 1970 in when a group of naval aviators and Wrens spent time in a rented chalet in Kitzbuhel, Austria, on a skiing vacation. I can clearly remember seeing ice crystals forming in mid-air while on the slopes - I witnessed the same here a few days ago too. On that particular day it was 20 below in the North Country - that's -30˚C for those of you who no longer use the Fahrenheit scale. What I had forgotten was how the snow sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight, particularly when temperatures are well below freezing. Back in the 60's and 70's there were no smart phones of course, and it would have been difficult to capture such shots as these while strapped to a pair of skis.


Liz and I are very Nature oriented. One of the reasons that we chose our last several places of residence was that each was "out in the countryside". Our first "joint" venture was a rented cottage in Blue Hills in Midrand. Then, on my retirement, we bought the farm in Martindale in the Eastern Cape. Then Liz found that rented apartment in Bath - on the edge of the forest and visited by squirrels, a friendly chipmunk and even once by a skunk. Now we are once more on the edge of a forest. We rarely see as many animals because of the snow, but it is clear from the fresh tracks in the snow that they have been in the yard during the night. I did see a white tailed deer the other day, picking her way through the fallen trees just a few yards away.