Today, I Built a Snow Fort

Winter Street

Living in western New York requires a hearty soul when it comes to weathering the weather. Every winter, Mother Nature throws her best punch at us. After lying mostly dormant this winter, she reminded us of her mood swings with a pummeling of snow that stopped drivers, closed roads and shut down businesses.  And some of us thought Spring was on the way.  Ha!

How do people along the Niagara Frontier handle Mother Nature with her long, dark winter nights, and mornings crisp enough to snap the nose off your face if you wiggled it?  Only one way, we take what She’s blown at us and make it our playground.

We tug on long johns, wrap ourselves in downy coats, then race out-of-door to play, just as we did when some of us still could race.

Against cheek numbing winds, we schuss down snow-packed mountains on narrow flat boards. We clamp on snowshoes and break new trails in deep silent stands of nearby woods.

Snowshoes

Dull skates and old sleds are rescued from dusty web covered garage lofts or backyard sheds. Blades and runners are honed and waxed to make perfect for gliding over new ice or flying down slick hills on our bellies.

The brilliant sunshine on a wintry day makes a frigid five degrees feel like a tepid ten. We are survivors!

Me, I call on a time when kids were always outside, playing games that strengthened our bodies and stretched our imaginations. Today, I built a fort in my backyard blanket of cold, cotton-like snow, a dugout snow fort.

My fort today was not unlike one I built back then, simple but strong. A mini fortress, big enough for a cadre of ruffians and a cache of snowballs, just in case real ruffians showed up, as they often did. And amid the screams and yells, and maybe a curse, was the splatting thud of snowballs finding arms and legs and an occasional noggin’.

Those snow castles gave us a place to escape, a place so cold that only the energy of our youthful exhuberance kept us warm, as a pint size ‘band of brothers’ huddled together, making plans for our next adventure.

And what better place to have that adventure than on a corner snow ‘mountain’, the high, hard packed hill of shoveled or plowed snow, perfect for a game of ‘King of the Hill’.

Winter is a great time to test our endurance, to demonstrate our vim, vigor and vitality. Come Spring, we will scratch a notch in our snowpant suspenders as a symbol of success against the elements. We shall prevail!

Today, I built a snow fort. And tonight, under the cold, star lit sky, I’ll climb a corner snow ‘mountain’ and declare myself, King of the Hill!

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Dedicated to the kid in every adult, builders of snow forts, and those who challenge themselves in the great outdoors.

Winter, In Name Only…

“Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen”
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)

snow 4
february 3, 2015

“Where is Winter?”  The calendar tells me we are in its grip, but the thermometer says, not so. 2015 brought thigh high snows, yet 2016 has seen nary a flake. “Where is Winter?”

No Snow
february 3, 2016

Our daffodils, normally unseen until April, are breaking ground, and like a periscope, daring to peek at a most unusual sight…grass, in February.  “Where is Winter?”

I almost expect to see worms wiggling out of my way as I leave prints in the soft underfooting of my yard, a ground seemingly unfrozen. But they know better, this is just a tease before arctic air dares to return for an end of season blast, the way firework finales finish a show.  And my orange snowblower looks content to be idle, gathering dust instead of devouring snow. “Where is Winter?”

Today, I saw a flock of Canada geese heading north. Were they locals who call this home, or the real birds that migrate when weather signals them to go?  Oh, let it be the latter. I do admire watching their hard work, these harbingers of the changing seasons. I called to them, “Where is Winter, eh?”, but they were far gone.

I am not a ‘winter person’. Neither the snow nor the cold make my life comfortable. I grumble about it. And just when I’m ready to say, ‘enough with this nonsense, Mother Nature senses my frustration and begins the change to the most beautiful stretch of weather from April thru November. It’s the reward for my patience with her.

But for now, the strange calmness that has enveloped us along the Niagara frontier reminds me of the sailors on the listing Pequod, waiting and waiting for the wind. In our case, the winter wind. I do not miss the winter, wherever it is.

I believe I am not alone…am I?

Buckland in Winter
Buckland Farm in Brighton, NY

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to my Rochester Instagram followers, whether you are winter fans, or not

“Today, I Shoveled Snow…”

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow…” RW Emerson

Winter Street

Today, I shoveled snow. Yesterday, I shoveled snow. And the day before that, I shoveled snow. It’s winter in western New York and we live with a steady diet of snow

Along the winter shores of Lake Ontario, steady snowfalls are the norm and removing it is more than a daily ritual. It’s a right of passage for youngsters and an absolute necessity for adults who get up, get out and get to work. Commerce doesn’t stop for weather, here.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, where measureable snowfalls also were a common occurrence, kids there learned to shovel at an early age, too. It was not an option in a blue collar neighborhood where dads had to be at work early and on-time.

All able bodied males in the house, young or old, manned shovels, clearing driveways and walks to help get workers on their way. Plow service and snow blowers were an unaffordable luxury for most families.

All that was heard on eerily quiet, ‘three decker’ lined streets the morning after a nor’easter, was the scraping of metal shovels over frozen pavement, and dry, fluffy snow squeaking underfoot with each twist of our black buckled boots. The task of finishing a job fell to the young school boys with nothing but time on their hands. Time and energy.

Snow shoveling is a low skill task, even the tools are simple and aptly named, ‘shovels’.  Bend, scoop, lift, toss, use your legs not your back. But those weren’t instructions my dad gave. He was more direct, knowing that I could figure out the mechanics, myself.

“I expect this driveway and sidewalk shoveled by the time I come home from work”, he announced, without mentioning my name or even looking at me. It was understood whom he was addressing, the skinny kid and the only one left home after he and big brothers went to work.

My dad’s directives were always clear and concise. The fewer the words, the stronger the message. Besides, mother always made sure the work got done, as prescribed.

And when the jobs were done, the neighborhood became a bevy of street hustlers, as I and other like-minded junior entrepreneurs with shovels slung over our shoulders, eagerly slipped and slid through heavy snowdrifts, knocking on doors with wet mittens, competing for whatever snow removal opportunities were left at neighboring houses.

We had no business plan or even understood the value of our labor. Regardless, we would shovel walks clean to the pavement, keeping tempo to imaginary cash registers ringing in our collective minds, totally dependent on the client’s generosity. Sometimes it was good and other times, not so good. But the greater lesson of work and reward was invaluable.

Now, I still find myself taking on the task of snow removal. It rekindles frigid memories of finger and face freezing days under the watchful eyes of my father and the lessons he ‘taught’ me.

One thing is certain…I can’t wait for the return of summer in western New York!

Snow 2

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Winter

‘Sometimes, I Like Summer Better…’

“Sometimes I wonder whether I like summer better, or winter better. Usually it is when it is NOT that season, that I like it most.” (Darcy)

-3

The town clock flashed a negative 3 bone chilling Farenheit degrees, as I stood numb at my school crossing post in January. Another western New York winter arrived with a vengeance. I wiggled my toes in desperation, confirming I still had them, and thinking, “I can’t wait for Summer”!

February found me chopping icicles off my house gutters, champion size icicles, easily 10 pounds, wishing they were large mouth bass. An avalanche of snow slid off the roof, smacking me squarely in the face while I mumbled, “I can’t wait for Summer”, and felt the watery intruder melting down my neck.

Trucks plowed heavy March snows from neighbors’ driveways, while wind gusts boomeranged it back at me as I labored with my own heavy snowblower. I uncurled my frozen fingers, one by one, from the icy grips of the obtrusive machine, and beneath a thick wool scarf wrapped around my face like an entombed mummy, I cursed the forecast and screamed in muffled frustration, “I can’t wait for Summer”!

It’s July and the humidity is oppressive.  Mid summer in western New York means muggy days and restless nights. A frosty winter breeze would feel so refreshing but the calendar gives me no solace. “How soon to Winter”?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I mowed the grass? Yet, there it lays, waiting for another clipping. Is there no end to summer’s workload?  Safety glasses! Earplugs! Industrial yard machines cranking up the descibles! I yearn for the peaceful whisper of a powdery snowfall. “How soon to Winter”?

An evening stroll through our garden on a warm August night demands a healthy dose of insect repellant. Even then, in a struggle for survival, the stronger mosquitoes find unprotected spots on my arms and legs to draw my precious blood. A winter frost would be my ally in this ongoing battle between bug and body. Desperately, I cry out to Mother Nature, “How soon to Winter”?

I’m comforted to know Fall is just around the corner. It’s my favorite season, you know, except for the ragweed and golden rod, of course. And, yes, it’s followed too closely by winter,with its long, cold, black nights and grey, bone chilling days…

Well, there’s always Spring…

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