An Ode to Mother Nature’s Gift

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Baby, it's snow outside. 7:00 PM. Photo: JH.

=Thursday, December 17, 2020.  26 degrees with a RealFeel of 13 last night as I was writing this Diary at 9:55 pm. The story then was: there is no story. We’re free of it all for the moment. It’s the snow, all about the snow. I’m a New Englander by upbringing, and even went to college down Maine, and the snow was always a gift. And it still is even though I’m not a kid anymore.

The snow. Watching the snow fall at night with the street lights giving us a closeup of its activity dominated by the wind is Nature’s state of meditation. Yet exciting; a relaxing rebellion. Rebellion because everything else is set aside by Mother Nature’s edict.

Looking south from 83rd Street and East En Avenue at 4:30 PM just as the first flurries came shly on the scene …

And as a kid, what were we thinking at the sight of it? The fun we could have being out in it, playing, skating, skiing, building snow forts and ice castles. By the time I was 11 or 12 it was the opportunity to make some money. Shoveling sidewalks. I had a silent contract with Mr. Roraback, Mr. Dorrington and Mr. Merrill. Our house was in the middle. So it was a hundred yards of pavement. 

This is not me in the photo but it captures the spirit of the moment that many of us felt at that age.

Two bucks each, unless it was just an inch or three; then it was a buck. That was quite a haul, six bucks in 30 minutes. I shoveled our walk gratis of course; that was assumed. And if it snowed frequently – every few days or so, remaining very cold, the shoveling would create snowbanks three or four feet high. Then when the Sun came up finally, for a moment the whole world was lighter as the Sun met the Snow.

I don’t recall what I spent it on, that five or six bucks. It went a long way in those days; a Hershey bar was a nickel. I know I didn’t save it. Maybe a few burgers and Awful Awfuls at Friendly’s, the Saturday matinee at the Strand, or single records (4t rpm) like Elvis and Little Richard.  And if there were two storms in a week, or even three up there at the foot of the Berkshires where it was accompanied by freezing temperatures, shoveling the walks was a bonanza for the kid. All heavenly in considering in these times. 

That is as long as you’ve got a warm hearth of some kind to relax in and and to protect you from the cold. There are many of us out there, as well as our fellow animals both wild and domesticated, who are often without shelter. When you live in a small town in New England, or just in exurban residential areas, you may see very little of that. But when you live in New York, you see it all. And if you don’t look away, it does not leave you.

But this passing moment, the big storm they’re callng “Gail” (Gail who?), at least in these parts, close to the Atlantic, is both apt and appropriate in the middle of the last month of the second decade of the 21st century. We need that lift that only the reality of nature can provide her children.

Meanwhile, as I wrapping this up, I went back to my terrace door to see what was happening out there.  There’s a street light across the way from me lighting up the pavement and the roads, and the snow streaming under and around its lamp. At this 11th hour, there’s a strong wind running the snow horizontally and hither and yonder; and in the background a strong, sharp wind  like the sound of a constant fleet of massive aircraft overhead. It draws you in. You wonder if maybe it really is aircraft. You listen harder. It’s not. It’s just a pleasure of a moment on this cold stormy night in Manhattan in the world today.

Same view. Only to turn the sky dark and the flurries transformed by speed and volume.
And here we are at 6 p.m. and first inch fallen.
Looking north a half hour later across from the Chapin School toward 86th Street.
The accumulation by 8:15 p.m.

Denoument: There’s a beautiful powdery snow; great for skiing said JH, having come from taking that whispering photograph looking down Park Avenue in midevening, midweek just before the holidays. Amazing in itself.

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