Sunday, February 18, 2007

Adaptation 2: Wormholes

A growing German Shepherd brain is a wondrous thing. Cassandra loves figuring things out, and I love watching her figure things out.
Here's a picture of Miss Cassie, diving for snowchunks. For perspective, note that the cross bar on the gate is four feet off the ground.

Almost every day, the two dogs and I make a short trip down the hill to visit Acer and his family. Acer and Cassie are well matched in energy level, and twenty minutes of running and romping makes both puppies more pleasant indoor company.

We haven’t been able to visit Acer since the big snow last Wednesday. We simply cannot get there. We have tried a couple of times, but the snow is too deep. The snow is also too deep for our usual games; we have had to adapt, hence the puppy racetrack laid out in the herb garden.

Yesterday we drove out on some errands then stopped at Acer’s house on the way back up the hill. Such happy puppies! But they couldn’t navigate the large field where they usually run in circles—just too much snow. We tried throwing chunks of snow over the side of a steep drop from the driveway for the dogs to chase and chomp, a favorite game.

Both young dogs leapt over the edge in joy, then were surprised at how difficult it was to swim up the bank through deep snow. They made it, but it was a tough job. Another snow chunk, and they were off again, but this time Cassie turned after a few steps and came back up her first track. Smart girl!

Soon both dogs were diving off the bank, but returning up the same couple of wormholes through the snow that they had first created. Look Ma! We invented a new game! Play with us!

In the background, Toby wandered back and forth, looking for the perfect chunk of snow. Not for this old dog the wild games of puppies. Not too long for puppies either. They played hard, but we went home before anyone got tired enough to risk injury.

Puppy life is back in order. Now if I could just find my mailbox.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Well, that didn’t work! It really is not possible to snowshoe in three foot deep powder snow. After fifty feet of sinking in as far as my knees, then trying to pull snowshoes out of the hole…well, I turned back toward the house.

Instead of backtracking, I made a big loop, which has now become the puppy’s racetrack. Old Toby was ready to come right back in, but Cassie had not had enough exercise for an eighteen-month-old German Shepherd girl. She romped around the racetrack while I watched from the door, then steadfastly sat at the highest point on her snowbank for several minutes, sniffing the breeze and keeping watch.

As for me, I switched from snowshoes to shovel and started on a path from the driveway to the back door, just in case the oil company needs to make a delivery. The snow is lovely, light powder, as easy to shovel as it is hard to walk through. Cassie likes the shovel almost as much as the vacuum cleaner. I stopped every few minutes to throw a lump of snow into a bank for her to chase—it is as funny as you might imagine to see a large dog swim in snow as high as she is tall.

Predictably, I took a lot of grief for closing our office for two days. Even in a blizzard that now ranks as the second worst in recorded history, Vermonters think one should keep on keeping on. I’m not from here, and I still stand in awe of the vagaries of weather. I still believe cold weather and snow and ice can kill me. So when the authorities declare a travel advisory and ask that Vermonters stay off the roads unless travel is absolutely necessary, I think they are speaking to me. It is not a good idea to acclimate to dangerous behavior, I say. If I take two days off every single time there is a storm that is the worst in decades, I don't think the Vermont economy will suffer unduly.

It is surprising to me how little we have heard of people’s experiences in the storm. Maybe people aren’t completely dug out yet. I am fortunate that my plow guy lives half a mile away and is in the excavating business. He spent all night out plowing driveways, then in the morning brought over the heavy equipment to dig me out. No rush, I wasn’t going anywhere until it was all over.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tim's Wood

Trombley Hill Road is my address, but few Trombleys live here now. Tim sold me the family farmhouse and two acres, then moved down the hill to a new house. But as time moved one, heating bills and healthcare for his wife took their toll, and Tim sold that house, too. Tim’s sister was the realtor, but she lives somewhere else, so now there is only the other sister who lives across the fields. It is sad to see families leave Vermont home places, but younger generations can’t handle the ongoing investment in dairy cows and maple groves.

Tim left me a stack of wood in the basement. The furnace burns either oil or wood, but for the first couple of years I lived here I was intimidated by the wood burning furnace. Then one cold weekend, I built a fire and I was warm for the first time that winter. Now I build fires every weekend, as much to save on the cost of heating oil as to be really, toasty warm. When you run on oil, you see, you set the thermostat at a barely tolerable level, but when you burn wood, you don’t have such fine control, and the house is filled with jagged, blessed warmth.

When Tim sold me the house, he left me a stack of wood in the cellar. He left me a living room with fourteen-inch maple floorboards, harvested and shaped from the maples on the family farm. I feel a connection to those trees that I, personally, have never known. I feel responsible to them.

It is cold this week. A record-breaking blizzard has dumped two and a half to three feet of snow on us, followed by howling winds and single digit temparatures. A good time to build a fire in the wood furnace. I started yesterday morning, feeding the fire every hour all day. This morning I was thrilled to see that the coals had lasted through the night, and all I had to do was add one more log to the coals.

Tim’s logs are big logs, far bigger than the ones that were delivered as firewood this fall. I have to believe that they came from the maple grove up the hill. These logs are rough cut, hunky, and well aged. Someone cut them years ago, thinking that they would keep someone warm. Probably someone named Trombley, but certainly someone who lived nearby, watching the maples through the seasons.

I am fortunate to be that someone.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Day

There are so many things I could be doing. Working, cleaning, laundry, baking, mending. I could be learning all about cascading style sheets. I could do my taxes and review my retirement plan. I could get on the treadmill for an extra mile or two.

But how often do we get a snow day in Vermont? Oh, we get days when it snows, even days when it snows a lot. But not days like this.

There is really a lot of snow out there. Television weatherpeople say it is around twenty-three inches. I say it is one German Shepherd puppy deep, about shoulder height.

The surprise on her face as she attempts to bound through the drifts is my treat for the day. She dives, coming up completely white, only her eyes dark and liquid with excitement. She still seeks out the usual spot to pee, but squatting completely swathed in powder is a new experience in her short life.

We try a short walk around the back yard, but the snow is thigh deep for me, so we don’t get far. I throw huge armfuls of snow at her, and she leaps and tries to bite it, then bounds in joyful, wide circles.

A day like this is a gift. It’s a day to watch as the snow covers the swing, the wheelbarrow, and the woodpile. It’s a day to call friends and hear stories of how it really is out there on the roads. It is a day to sit and knit, to play with puppies, to heat up soup from the freezer for lunch, to wave at the snow plow guy, and to do as little as possible. How often do we get a snow day?

Tomorrow we will start working our way back to daily routine. But today is a snow day.