Friday, December 13, 2002

Wednesday's ice is turning to slush and mud. A slight rise in temperature, a round of rain mixed with sleet, and the remaining snow is suddenly looking threadbare and moth-eaten. The dampness puts a chill in the bones worse than the single digit cold did. I shouldn't complain. This would probably qualify as a mild spring day in Vladivostok or Baffin Bay. Siberians would be shedding layers and complaining about the unseasonable heat. Even here in Virginia, I can think back to a blizzard a few years ago to remember what real winter weather is like. We were stuck on the farm for days, drifts blowing too deep even for the four wheel drive. Winds so cold that my sweat-soaked pants froze into knife edges, cutting into my legs as we walked back from hauling hay bales to stranded cattle. The days of snow were interrupted by a fast moving front of warm air, raising the temperature by 40 degrees in a matter of hours. Frozen water reverted to its liquid state almost instantaneously. Water filled the storm drains and shot out of the manhole covers in town, giving each street its own miniature fountains. Streams overflowed. The piles of snow remaining in the pasture vanished, leaving puddles and temporary marshes. A day later, the temperature dropped, and we were hit by an ice storm. One cow, confused beyond bearing, simply dropped dead in the field. The rest of us survived just fine, a few pictures of man-high drifts on the porch the only permanent record of the experience.

Yesterday morning there was a small break in the clouds at sunrise, illuminating the ridges to the south. Here is my attempt to capture the result: