Winter is winter here in eastern Washington but snow deserves it’s own mention. It’s a category unto itself.
Snow is beautiful. It transforms your world. What was your environment becomes, with the gentle application of this “makeup”, a whole new world. It’s a sort of makeover of your surroundings.
Like foundation, it smooths out wrinkles and covers blemishes. It makes whole and new again, that which was dingy, gaudy, ugly, and trashy looking; soft and smooth like whipped cream still in the bowl before you dig the spoon in.
For us, it came early last year. And suddenly. I think it was before Thanksgiving. Sometime in October even? It wasn’t much. About 4 or 5 inches but it was a harbinger of what was to come.
I know I talk about winter here like it’s the end-all-be-all of events but to us, that’s not too far off the mark. That’s because we’re “coasters”; people from the other side of the mountains, near the Seattle area.
They have four seasons there; more rain, less rain, a little sun, and moderate rain. It’s pretty gloomy there in the Pacific Northwest rain belt. It doesn’t get really cold and snow is news there when it happens. Everyone goes out to build snowmen and sled. It receives continues coverage, schools close, and Seattle freaks out. Then it’s gone as fast as it came. That’s what we’re used to.
Here, it’s just another day to walk out to 3 new feet of snow in the morning and people know to make extra time to de-ice their windshields and shovel snow out of their carports in the mornings. People use quads with snow shovels to quickly deal with the problem. Dogs run around madly barking and trying to bite the wheels while their owners expertly maneuver their machines back and forth pushing the white stuff neatly into piles off to the sides. Some people in the outskirts with long roads for driveways sometimes hire others to do the work. There’s plenty of employment in snow removal during the winters here.
We couldn’t afford to hire someone to keep our driveway clear last winter nor did we have the equipment to do it ourselves. It’s almost a half mile from the road to our parking spots on our property up on a hill. We parked our truck at the gate leading to the larger parcel of property that had been divided into four (one of which is ours), and walked, slogged, groped, slid, and clawed our way up the slope to get home. We took the wheels off of our wagon and turned it into a sled to transport groceries and 55 gallon propane bottles back and forth.
We made a sort of game trail that the wildlife would commandeer in their wanderings; a trough through the 2 or more feet of slippery cold matter. We would hike on without stopping, past the neighbor’s house until we got out of sight behind the tree line before stopping to rest. The last leg was the steepest part . The road arced up at too-steep an angle as our cold and laboring lungs kicked into overdrive in the frigid air.
Finally, the home stretch; our feet frozen, legs tired, breath rushing out and in as we would round the corner and into our property; our trailer and shed silently waiting for us in the dark. It was a test of our wills dealing with the mighty weight of the winter snows.
The first real snow came in mid-December. My husband had just started a job and I went to pick him up as the snow fell. By the time we got home that evening, our property was covered in about 2 and a half feet of new snow.
Everything looked as if it had been topped with marsh mellow cream dumped from a heavenly pot. Our shed, the trailer; nothing was recognizable anymore. Small objects looked as if dollops had been dabbed on them as a finishing touch for dessert time.
We set to work carving trails outlining our routine trajectories about the premises and pushed and pulled the heavy stuff from off our trailer roof. We had to climb a ladder to scoop and shove the snow into large mounds around it’s perimeter.
Life became a lot more difficult once the snow came. The temperatures dipped into the teens and then into the single digits from there on out. As we were ill prepared for the realities of the weather in our new home, I began to entertain the idea of moving into an emergency shelter for the winter with our son. My husband would have to stay behind with the cat.
It was a difficult decision but ultimately a necessary one. Our family was separated for 3 months. Of course I saw my husband nearly every day but it wasn’t the same and we had but a short time together Christmas day.
As spring neared, we moved back to the property and readjusted to life in the bitter cold as it was still a month or so away. It was with mixed feelings that we left the warm confines of the shelter in town and moved back to the “frontier”. We were happy to be back together though. That was most important.
Our water pipes were still frozen and our RV batteries had suffered from the cold. At that time we didn’t have the money to really do a lot in maintenance. The water pipes would shatter if we tried to repair them because of the cold so we made do with workarounds.
I made use of the snow and molded sculptures of horses and random shapes. We made a sledding hill and managed to go through 3 sleds before we were done.
The snows eventually melted as we shoveled at the driveway little by little, our pathway being the last to melt. All of those trips back and forth had compacted the ruts into thick long slabs of ice. Then the day came that we were finally able to get our truck to the top. It was a day of turning the corner into spring.
On one sunny afternoon, it really hit me that it was mostly over. We had made it through our first winter and the snow. Sure we had stayed at a shelter but as a family, we had made it through something we were told horror stories about. And now it was almost behind us.
Spring lay ahead. And plans for our first garden on our very own property.