Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter 1978

The pictures set the theme of snow. We really have more cold than snow here, but I wanted a particular ambience. I must look for old pictures and see if I can scan them! Story follows.

We have so much winter in Manitoba that it reminds me of our first winter together. Lois and I were married in July 1977. The following January she was teaching Grade 2 in Nappanee, I was working at Evangel Press (running a folding machine), and we lived in Nappanee. And it snowed and snowed and snowed.

Lois had more snow days than any other month of her school life. Of course I walked back and forth to the press regardless. Towards the end of the month we had a major blizzard on top of all the snow we'd had that far. My memory says that about two feet of snow came on a Thursday. A google search reveals that in nearby South Bend three feet of snow fell on January 26, 1978. That was indeed a Thursday.

I worked my usual 7:30 to 4, with a half hour for lunch. Running a folder is another story: proof that even the radically non-mechanical can run a machine. But back to the snow. Just before 4 pm Lois called from home. She had had another snow day. After 31 plus of being married to her, I wonder what she did or if she felt cooped up. In any case, she had decided to shovel a path from our front door through the four feet of snow in the driveway out to the road, to let me into the house. (True love runs true!)

Well, there was too much snow. When she opened the main door, which opened inwards, she found that the outer storm door was fast closed in by the snow. It wouldn't move, and she was stuck inside. So she called and warned me.

When work was over I walked home, where I found the snow piled against me. Lois stood inside the storm door, and I stood outside on the road, and we just laughed at the ludicrous situation. Eventually I waded in, floundering up to my chest in four feet of snow. The snow shovel was propped against the wall just outside the door, and I dug out a patch in front of the door, just enough to open the door and go inside. Supper was wonderful, and the house was warm and a wonderful place to be.

The next morning we heard how thoroughly the snow had covered the state. Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio had been blanketed, and the northern half of Indiana had been completely shut down. In our town of Nappanee, the police had posted themselves at the four roads by which people could come and go, and were stopping anyone who tried to leave town. People out in the country were snowed in for days -- friends of ours were stranded in their home for six days until the oil truck broke through to replace their oil supply.

So far as we could tell all of the businesses in town were closed -- except for mine. Lois had no school. The shops were closed. Factories shut. But two good men walked into the press, opened up, and called the rest of us. I could walk too, so I had to admit that I could make it. But first I shovelled our driveway out properly: six feet of snow piled straight across. That took a good hour or two. Then I shovelled a path from the road to our neighbour's door. She was a widow, and another widow lived across the street. So of course I had to shovel her out too. Finally after lunch I walked on into work.

It was a most amazing snowfall. One of our friends used the packed snow to build and igloo in his backyard and sleep in it. Lois and I had the impression that we had settled in a winter wonderland where it would snow forever.

Years later (15 years later) we brought our sons back to Indiana from Kentucky. We made sure that they knew this was the land of snow; but of course there was little snow. The blizzard of the century came only once in the century. So we moved further north to Manitoba, looking for snow. We have found cold, more than enough; and although it doesn't snow like that one incredible blizzard in 1978, the snow we get stays and stays, clear and bright and sparkling. And Lois and I can look across and laugh for the delight of winter.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Year 2009

I have been trying to put my feelings and thoughts at the New Year into words -- a harder task than sometimes. Last night our son called to say that he was okay after the accident (wiped on on I-79 on icy roads), and again I realized that all of the good that we experience can change in the briefest of moments. The past semester in my teaching was filled with stress, and I realize that I do not enjoy change the way that I once did. So the words below: an effort to grasp some security within the constant change of life.

New Year 2009

We had a dachshund, loyal, loving;
I remember too clearly
A warm summer day,
The dog seemed more weary
Than usual. Dogs die.

Deep roots diving deep into the earth.
I had friends when I was young;
we went to school together,
Talked, played, ran, and sang;
the bond we shared was real and strong.
Now years and miles between.

He held his blanket, grasped it tight
As it hung on the line to dry.
Life was real and life was right
When he had wrapped it so;
It answered his possessive cry
And calmed the ebb and flow.

At midnight we circled round the game
Our glasses lifted in a toast;
The past poured out, an empty night
A day begun, shaken roots still holding.

I need my friend, my dog, my love
(I have not even tried to speak of her),
Comfort and strength to grasp what's now, what's new.

6 January 2009