Lemon trees and sunshine

My former neighbors sold their place and headed back to California last year, refusing to take me with them. Maybe three’s a crowd, but I tried to explain that I’d be at the beach all the time anyway, or taking walks, or eating al fresco. They held firm. So I was left here amid yesterday’s two feet of snow and teeth-chattering temperatures dreading the shovel-out, which really takes all the fun out of having a snow day, you know? So I broke down and hired someone on Craigslist to shovel my driveway, and spent half the night wondering if he’d be like most posters on Craigslist: people who promise to meet you to buy that thing and then flake out. But he arrived this morning in a 4-wheel drive vehicle ready to work, and  while there was some guilt in watching every shovelful blow back in his face, there wasn’t enough to guilt me out of my pajamas to help. Instead, I am gorging on Scandal and about to watch multiple full-seasons of every show ever positively reviewed thanks to Santa’s gift of Google Chrome and my stunning ability to set it up, despite online comments rife with warning.

Then another neighbor came by with a gift; he and his wife had been out to visit my former neighbors who had fled to California.

“This is from her lemon tree,” he tells me, as I stare dumbfounded at the white piles of snow and these two perfect, plump little lemons.

“Her lemon tree?” I ask. “Her lemon tree?” It strikes me that I am not sounding very grateful.

When life gives you lemons, better to make hot chocolate.


The “S” word

In a moment of sheer betrayal, the amiable weatherman, who has so far delivered delightful fall news and reports on the waxing and waning moon, has uttered the “s” word, and not the short “s” word that one associates with California, but the other “s” word that made me scream at the TV using yet another unkind “s” word.

The “s” word. In October. As in before November and December. I have only just put away my summer wardrobe this week after storing my sandals with a muffled sob.

After remembering that I do live in New England, and that a flurry is a flurry and it will be gone tomorrow and that this is really an opportunity to buy a new scarf and glove set, despite the fact that I can never find a decent scarf and glove set and will inevitably settle on something from Target that will last exactly one winter, I just read the revised forecast: potentially THREE INCHES. Excuse me while I have a nervous breakdown.

Snow: before and after

It has been snowing here in New England for nearly 15 hours straight. It’s pretty for the first 12 hours when you’re lounging around in your pajamas, enjoying your free day off of work until you realize that 1) the day off serves only to allow you just enough time to shovel out so you can make it to work the next day, and 2) shoveling sucks.

It’s great if you like winter sports and don’t mind the cold. It’s hell if you don’t like hats.

My blog friend Kim posted that she was jealous about the snow out here. Kim lives in sunny California. If I were to say that out loud, you would hear an edge in my voice called bitterness. Don’t make me come out there, Kim, and beat you with my shovel. Don’t worry, I can’t even open my gate.

I know most Before and After photo sets really make you appreciate the after. This is not one of those.

My patio before and after:



New Year nature

One year, my friend and I took a rejuvenating hike on New Year’s Day, and as the snow softly fell on our fuzzy hats, it felt like the perfect way to embrace the new year. Of course, it might have been the free hot chocolate.

This year, with California temps and snow on the ground on New Year’s Day, another friend and I took to the woods with our new snowshoes. After tromping around on packed snow and not quite hitting our stride, we noticed we were being lapped by walkers.

“Christmas present?” one guy asked.

“Yup,” I said. “From last year.”

One shoe kept bumping into the other and I stepped on myself more than once. About a mile in, we took off the blasted things and walked back, vowing to try them in new fallen snow—where they’re meant to be used and could be quite enjoyable—while at the same time hoping that we never have that much snow again. In the meantime, they’re handy for getting to your car in a storm.

Anyway, I like the idea of layering up and getting outdoors on New Year’s Day with the promise of a whole year stretching ahead like a long path in the woods. I like spotting deer tracks, and red berries on the white snow, and discovering intriguing creature hideaways like this hollow:

Hello, in there

Just makes you want to crawl inside with a stash of acorns and hibernate until spring.

A snow day To Do list

Sometimes a snow day can be the most productive. I’d suggest the following:

Get up late. Really late. Aim for the afternoon.

Consider getting up and then grab a book.

Listen the plow rumble by and the neighborhood shoveling brigade.

Consider shoveling.

Laugh uncontrollably.

Crank the heat to be warm if it goes out.

Eat breakfast while watching relentless but compelling Blizzard of 2010 coverage.

Be grateful you don’t have to park on the street, or evacuate your beach house, or sleep at the airport.

Do yoga online and discover it’s easier than going to the gym and that no one crowds your Warrior Three.

Layer up, grab a shovel, and open the door.

Close the door.

Bake chocolate chip scones that come out like puffy cookies. Eat more scone cookies than you think you could.

Mentally prepare yourself to shovel.

Wedge open the patio gate and watch in slow motion as a gust slams the gate into your head.

Consider the possibility that you have a concussion.

Rejoice at the possibility of head trauma if it means you can get out of shoveling.

Resume the inevitable.

Engage in a cardiac workout that will eliminate the need to work out for eight months.

Go back to bed.

Resolve to stay there if it ever snows again.

Hello, pretty snow

Isn’t the snow beautiful? Isn’t it just lovely the way it drifts and drapes the trees?

Isn’t it cool to wake up and look out the window and find you actually can’t see out the window? Isn’t it fun when it makes your car all frosty and you have to spend 17 billion hours scraping the ice off the windshield and 18 more hours shoveling just so you can use your driveway?

Oh, and isn’t it great the way it piles up on sidewalks so you have to clomp through the icy mounds getting your feet wet because the mountain was more quick-sand snow than solid snowbank and you can’t find boots that are good in the snow AND not unsightly clodhoppers?

And aren’t snowplows awesome when they’re not scraping asphalt and two in the morning and dumping cement-like piles at the end of your driveway that make you ponder whether it might be worth buying a Caterpillar. And is it really a sign of insanity that you did a little research on what it would take to buy, say, a mustard-yellow 2003 front loader, which is $169,000, incidentally, and you think, Huh, well that sounds pretty reasonable?

Snowy cemetery

I’m trying to embrace winter, and while I resist the double-mitten cold, I try to find joy in the beauty of it while shivering like a swimmer after an icy plunge. Mt. Auburn Cemetery is one place I haunt for its peacefulness. It’s quiet mood has a lot to do with the arboretum-like feel—the sleepy willow trees and placid ponds—but mostly I think it’s because the people are dead. Dusted with snow, it’s at its most tranquil.

You can see I like trees.

A lot.

And the occasional frozen flower.

So, in my least favorite season, I like to ponder this quote:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus

Come fly with me

Snow always makes for a fun commute. Drivers forget how to drive, buses crawl along, and the T, well, you think you could rely on the T. On my way home from work this week though, I found myself trapped on the Red Line in a packed train for more than an hour. While people started out calm (one woman said she was too tired from shoveling to complain), the crowd grew unruly, pressing the emergency call button to get an update from the rather uncommunicative T operator. After 45 minutes, this enlightening announcement: “We are experiencing difficulties at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience.” Could that be any less helpful? I will spare you the choice words we shared on the train and my sudden onset of claustrophobia that might have gotten me on the news had the train not started moving.

I was off to the airport that night to spend Christmas with my family in Newport News, VA, and got home with ten minutes to spare before my friend was to chauffeur me to the airport. I threw last-minute items in a suitcase and bolted out the door, down the icy steps, and to the airport where I dragged my luggage from the trunk—a trunk so heavy with snow that it slammed down on my head. Things were going well.

Inside, my luck changed. No one was in line at the counter and I sailed through security. Conditioned to rush in such moments, I was whipping off my shoes and coat out of habit, when a guy behind me said, “I’ve learned not to rush for these things. Take your time.” We exhaled in unison.

Despite the inevitable flight delay and getting stuck in the middle seat, the jaunty flight attendant lightened the mood. “Welcome aboard Flight 643 to…Hawaii!” he said to a burst of applause. Oh, what a merry Christmas that would be. An hour and a half later, though, spying no tropical beaches or luaus from the sky, we pulled into a chilly terminal that looked suspiciously like Virginia.