The Block Island Times

Expectation of Winter

By Martha Ball | Jan 25, 2014

It is snowing and I have to move my car, at least from the barnyard, out beyond the bend in the road that is drifted over in any storm. It is snowing and it is cold, but when I hear the time on the radio I realize with some joy that my reaction to it is “it’s only 4:02” as though I have all the time in the world before darkness settles.

That was quite awhile ago and I have gotten as far as donning my boots. The car is still in the barnyard and fading light has quickly passed to dark night.

At 5:40 when I finally do go out it feels it has long been dark, that it should be much, much later than it is. The road is only slightly drifted, although snow is blowing, erasing the tracks of my tires in the short time it takes me to drive up to the main road and back. Sitting in the yard with the car running, letting the engine warm up the way I should have before driving that mile, looking to be sure I have not parked under the tree, watching the snow swirl about me, suddenly I realize the lights of the harbor that had been shuttered by the storm are, again, clearly visible.

Twenty minutes later they have vanished, only to reappear, which seems to be the hallmark of this storm that is coming up the coast in bands that appear to stretch all the way down to the Carolinas.


When will I ever learn to stop listening to the radio, or, more to the point, stop letting it influence my thinking about the weather? In fairness, much of the conversation late yesterday was: “It’s a snowstorm. What happened to us that we can’t handle a snowstorm?” — a valid question indeed.

It did snow last night, the red lights on the highest towers disappearing and reappearing, the latter always a comfort, as the world turned toward morning. The old house did not quake as it sometimes does in the worst of winter storms, and the power did not dip. The wind was still blowing when the sun came up, filling the air with white, a combination that does not bode well for my road that drifts, I say, when everything around it is bare ground.

“The gate,” where there hasn’t been a gate in decades, the turn onto the Mansion Road, is down across the lot, visible but not enough to give up its status. The lower part of what is too long to be a driveway is deceptive, it tends to fill in and mound over, giving the impression of nothing when it is really a drift at least two feet deep.

Finally, the air clears and the sun begins to burn through the clouds and I pull the real snow boots out of the box in the closet where they have been since last year. It is cold, multiple-layers cold, although it truly has not felt as bad as expected when I have been out in the yard trying to convince Autumn to come back inside. She wants nothing more than to be out, plowing into drifts chest-deep in the barnyard and covering the newly sprouted snowdrops in front of the house. She has no interest in coming in until her paws are caked with ice, then she lies on her back waiting for me to make it all better so she can rest a few minutes and begin pestering me to start all over again.

Dressed for the tundra, I walk down the road, much to the delight of this golden dog who bounces in and out of the snow that has gathered in the tall winter dead goldenrod and milkweed in the field.

The road is nearly clear, the track of my tires from last night’s adventure a ribbon of compressed white in the midst of brown gravel and rocks. It happens, often there is nothing until the start of the incline down to the gate, the place where the road bed is a few inches lower than the field, the place for that great mound of snow to grow upon itself.

There is virtually no snow all the way out, hardly enough to satisfy the dog’s hunger for it and I head back to the house wondering what the heck happened to that near-blizzard I was hearing about all night, and remembering all the callers aghast that schools had been cancelled en masse the night before, full of their own memories of great storms and school never being called, an exaggeration I am certain.

Still, just a short time ago, the Historical Society was given access to photographs taken in January of 1965 when the snow was so deep it took two days to get the Neck Road open. They were taken by a teacher who was here for only one year and it came as a bit of a shock how clearly I, and people to whom I mention it, remember him, down to his showing us these very same pictures at an assembly.

“We adored him!” one woman wrote, “he was such a brain.” I notice we are all loathe to drop the “Mr.” before his name, even I who have been chided by him that we are old enough to forego such formalities.

The photos, sharp and crisp as a winter’s day after a storm, confirmed our memories: there was snow, huge drifts of it that had to be removed with a back-loader. School was surely cancelled, but it is not a storm I remember in particular, such events were an expectation of winter.

After giving the car a decent amount of time to warm itself, I simply drove out, through the meager snow, out to the plowed road, past the house where that teacher and his wife had lived, where so much snow had once landed, and was glad to have proof my memories were not a product of my imagination.

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