Monday, December 07, 2009

First snow

I was up in the early hours stoking the woodstove with some twisted black locust we had cut and split last summer when I heard the rain rattling on the tin roof. The forecast had called for a rain-snow mix, and from the sound of it this was all rain. It heralded a wet cold Saturday, not a good day for outside work. I wouldn't be able to cut the brush away from the edge of the north side of the field where we park the rolls of hay in that kind of downpour. Maybe I'd finally get a chance to run that 12-2 cable for a couple 20 amp circuits in the barn. Or sort through a mountain of screws, nuts, washers, carriage bolts and lag screws that were littering every work surface in the shop after trying to fix a broken belly mower mount on a New Holland tractor. Inside work, sounded like, and I crawled back into bed.

Just before false dawn it got quiet and I thought the rain had quit. Maybe it won't be so wet after all, I thought as I rolled out of warm covers to put on the coffee, feed the dog, stoke the fire and and look outside the window. Instead of wet deck planks, I saw a frosting of white as tiny flakes settled out of a cloud. Sadie, our 8-year-old French Brittany Spaniel, came over to peer out the slider. I cracked the door so she could take her morning constitutional but she made a U-turn at five feet out and came right back inside. Not yet, her eyes said soundlessly.

By 7 the frosting had turned to a smooth thin layer; by 9 to a half-inch and by noon to a good old steady snowfall, four inches before it was over, that covered up all the imperfections in a 15-acre hayfield that was last cut in October. It was a wet snow with a falling thermometer, so what came stayed for a long visit, bending the bows of the laurel and rhododendron and covering the top of the mountain with a lovely coat of fresh paint. We walked out to the dirt road a couple of times just to stretch the legs and let Sadie work out the kinks. She was a black-and-white blur against a backdrop of snow, endlessly running her loops out and back and bounding along with the joy that any worthwhile dog shows when the day is still fresh and there's energy to burn.

The snow gave up its ghosts around dusk when it thinned, bucked, coughed and stopped. An hour later the clouds parted and a cold luminescence lit up the landscape, giving these old hills an eerie specter until the wind began to pick up, blowing snow devils around like little white upside-down tornadoes. We threw more locust on the fire and poured a wee dram, and wondered briefly and idly if we might be able to salvage a snowed-in call to the office out of this lovely gift of late fall in the Blue Ridge.