We have replaced our normal atmosphere with snow. For a week or more, it has been everywhere — in the air, in the sky, on the ground. Its constant presence has become, even here in the hardy cold north, the topic that everyone, eventually, gets around to.
And yet, we don’t treat this inconvenience as anything but just that. Unlike downstate (for all practical intents, let’s say south of Ulster County), where snow in excess of a foot at any one time is the stuff of municipal emergency, the north country pretty much absorbs snowfall as just one more of those things you learn to live with.
This week, I had to haul my snow blower up on my deck and blow it clear. There was more than 18 inches of snow there from about three days of accumulation, but that isn’t why I needed the snow blower. I have already pushed so much snow off my deck this winter that it is now even with the deck. My deck is 5 feet off the ground. At least with the snow blower, I could move the snow far enough away so that it doesn’t get higher than the deck.
And that is just one example of what we learn to work with in our winter lives. When I moved to Northern New York, snow was no stranger. Many winters in the northern Catskills, and a handful in Syracuse, gave me plenty of experience with it. But when we bought a house at the base of the Tug Hill Plateau, it was the equivalent of enrolling in snow graduate school.
For years during the winter, my colleagues will ask me, before I get my coat off, “How is it down your way?” My typical answer: “Not bad. Nothing special.” This answer covers the range from a dusting to a foot of snow. Above a foot, I usually have to acknowledge it. Many times, my colleagues can’t relate to what I’m saying. In areas prone to lake effect, it isn’t unusual for snow bands to sweep back and forth across a given spot, dropping fierce amounts for a few minutes or an hour and then abruptly moving south or north. As such, we seldom get the seminal snow all at once, but we often find, after a couple days of on and off precipitation, a couple feet of snow have fallen.
So it is with some bemusement that I watch news reports of Atlanta being paralyzed by 8 inches of snow. (My favorite TV weatherman’s statement of this season, from HLN: “Georgia’s plow is now in Augusta, making its way north.”) I think to myself “Glad I’m not there!” when I watch New York City paralyzed by two snowstorms that have the temerity to hit within two weeks of each other. And I say “That’s gonna leave a bruise!” when I watch a news clip of an SUV sliding backwards down a Texas bridge and smacking into a line of cars.
As a transplant to the north country, I have always marveled at the sanguine attitude most of the people of this region have about winter snows and frigid weather. Life goes on, and we live with it. The only thing to fear, for a Northern New Yorker, is a sudden snow blower breakdown. More than just the grapes are cold-hardy up here.