Friday, December 19, 2008

All bets are off

Guest blogger: Welcome
Deirdre, GGF
If you follow this site, you know that here on our Puget Sound island, we are deep under an unprecedented blanket of cold, fluffy snow. Unlike native Alaskans, our vocabulary to describe snow is woefully limited, and, even more unfortunate, quite reflective of our abilities to negotiate the stuff.

At once thrilling, fun, and overwhelming to rain-ready folks like us, arctic temperatures and ice-covered roads throw a wrench into our daily lives, leaving us each a little giddy and a fair bit disoriented. My 85-year old mother, always ready with unusual trivia, chatted last night about the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia. Roughly over solstice, it re-aligned the calendar for the new year; the Romans considered it a "time out of time," meaning that "anything goes" during Saturnalia. All sorts of usually-banned behavior was tolerated and even expected and never mentioned again once the calendar righted itself.

That's how this deep snowfall feels, in a way. No plans for illicit relations among any pals I know, but the regular routine just doesn't seem to apply. With our country roads, our one lone snowplow, and our treacherous hills and valleys, most folks are trapped at home, content to raid the least until the beer runs out.

At my house, we are three humans - four with my mom in the evening - holed up in 1500 square feet with two warring cats and a dog that produces enough excess fur each day to knit a new small pet. Luckily, all that fur makes it hot for him inside and just fine for him out, so he is fairly content to flop on the porch and allow the chickens to amuse him. Until he gets hungry or lonely.

But, time out of time or not, 39 (I hope it's still 39) hens and 11 sheep still stand around pretty much all day waiting for their handout and wondering if someone's coming by to make the water liquid again. So, 88' or 18', we cannot step out of life altogether. The greenhouse must be saved from collapsing, the water tank endlessly stomped, the tender young plants shaken free of crushing snow. We must keep the pump house from freezing and prepare for the eventuality of losing power.

I grumble and feel myself getting cranky at the unfairness of not being able to shrug my workaday duties and snuggle down with a good book. Then I look up from the boots I am pulling on and see the sight laid before me. Trees, and fields, and blue skies, and hopeful animals, and an expanse of virgin white that shimmers in the morning cold and welcomes the first footsteps of the day. My footsteps.

This Sunday is the longest night of the year, the first day of Hanukkah, just 72 hours before Santa begins his miraculous journey, and another day until others celebrate their own miracle. Here, with this inexplicable and inexplicably beautiful time out of time falling on Stop Sign Farm, I remember to feel gratitude for this moment and await the new year with something that feels a little like joy.

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