Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Fine Art of Hunkering Down

My father would have loved the Weather Channel. He wasn’t an airline pilot, a mail carrier, a farmer or a member of any other weather-dependent profession. We was, in fact, a pharmacist, but he still watched the weather as if he had a plane to fly to Syracuse or 40 acres to plant before sunset. So It was a common occurrence during meals and other times to see him glance at his watch and bolt to his feet.
“Gotta watch the weather,” he’d say,
He’d head for the living room and tune in Don Wooten or one of his meteorological progeny. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, my brother and I would be squabbling over the last pork chop, while my mom and sister chatted as they cleared the dishes.
“Shhhh,” my dad would say. “I gotta hear this.”
If no one was nearby to do it for him, he would lever himself from his favorite chair and turn up the volume (no remote control in those days, kids.)
One might have thought he was huddled with Ike, planning the invasion of Normandy, but, no, he was just interested in what was going to happen next. So, I can’t help thinking he would have loved 24/7 access to Jim Cantore and his buddies.
I never really paid much attention to the forecast myself, since the only thing I generally had riding on it was the possibility of a snow day away from school. But even that wonderful reality never seemed to be the halcyon event it should have been. It never seemed to snow when I had a math test on tap, and tons of the white stuff meant I’d bundle up like some miniature version of Admiral Byrd and spend the day hand-shoveling the six-mile strip of concrete we called our front walk, followed by a trudge to downtown Galva and another few hours spent digging out the 47 city blocks that surrounded dad’s pharmacy. Or, at least, that’s how I remember it.
The weather is on most peoples’ minds as I write this on Tuesday morning, with a whopper of a winter storm predicted for our area in the next day or two. The “if” word has entered most conversations regarding plans for the rest of the week.
“If it snows.”
“If I can get there.”
“If it gets called off.”
“If they’re actually right this time.”
I’ve pulled my snow blower out of summer storage, dusted off my shovels and located my least-leaky pair of boots, so I’m probably as ready as I’m going to be. And I’m ready for something else, too.
While a big snow can mean tough, treacherous driving and a lot of other negative factors, a really big snow can lead to something infinitely more pleasant:
Because there can come a point when a mondo-snowstorm envelopes us with enough force that everything just kind of stops. No school, no work, no driving, no shoveling (yet) and no nothing.
Sometimes, those unexpected days off can be put to good use, as a chance to catch up on household chores and other necessary evils. But, an even better use occurs when we relax and accept the weather-card we’ve been dealt. The best days are the ones when we read a book, watch an old movie, put a fire in the fireplace and prepare a simple meal out of leftovers and the miscellaneous stuff in our pantry.
When we all just hunker down.
I hesitate to add this last bit for fear you may come to the conclusion that I’ve become a crotchety old duffer who spends his days watching the squirrels. And, indeed, I do have a generally warm relationship with the little varmints. My observations indicate that squirrels have a fairly limited universe. I like to call the ones who populate our front yard “The Park Squirrels,” as they travel between our yard and the park across the street, accepting handouts and living their squirrelly lives without making much of a fuss. But the squirrels out back are an entirely different breed. I call them “The Backyard Gang,” They’re a tough bunch, who demolish bird feeders, raid my garden and chatter angrily at me if I dare to sit on my deck. They even drive Max, my striped semi-feral cat indoors with their incessant barking and swearing. One of them decided, apparently, that it was getting a little chilly last week and moved up (down?) in the world, straight into my neighbors’ basement. A week-long power struggle ensued, as the neighbors tried to trap, chase and coax the little beast out of their house. Thinking he had a pretty good deal going, the squirrel resisted all efforts, and even started helping himself to goodies, like a loaf of bread on the kitchen counter. This was not accepted with good grace by the homeowners, who redoubled their efforts with the help of a professional pest expert. The battle even went international, with updates appearing regularly on the world wide web via Facebook.
Finally, the humans won out, as the unwelcome visitor exited via a basement door left open for that purpose.
“He’s headed your way,” messaged my neighbor.
Maybe so. Just in time to hunker down.

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