Friday, January 3, 2014


Siberia.  That’s what is feels like as I write.  In the morning there was even an almost-fog of the kind that exists in extreme cold places sometimes, a fog actually made up of tiny snow crystals floating and blowing in the air with dim sun shining through an otherwise clear sky.  The clear sky tonight will help bring the temperatures down to minus 20 F.  That’s minus 28.8 Celsius, for most of the world not using Fahrenheit.  In some places, maybe in mountain hollows or some more northerly valleys, the temperatures could go down as far as 30 below zero or minus 34.4 Celsius.   (Interesting how Celsius and Fahrenheit appear to be more disparate as the temperature descends:  -40F is also -40C, but after that number comparisons seem to get weird.  They’re not really weird, they just look that way.  If you had a scale based on absolute zero for all temperature scales they would be more logical.  If you care.) 

The winter so far (it’s only January) has been memorable for its ice.  Cold, too, but the ice has been in a class by itself.  Before Christmas there was an ice storm topped off by some snow that managed to coat every blade of tall grass, every branch of every tree, cars, house–everything in the Champlain Valley–with a one-inch thick layer of ice, which happened, thankfully, without maiming many trees.  When the sun shown through the trees appeared to be made of glass. Step across the ice crust of the meadow. your feet touching and breaking the tubes ice-molded around leaves and small branches, you would feel as if you were crushing layers of eggshells.  Crunch, crunch.

When the top snow layer disappeared after a slightly warmish (20’s, low 30’s) day we were left with just the ice.  The driveway was (still is, under more recent new snow) solid ice from one end to the other.  The meadow was frozen snow, the lawn (some lawn!) was frozen snow.  Ken dug into our hiking equipment to come up with crampons in case we wanted to walk in the field.  I could use crampons just walking to the shed. The ice is too hard now to stomp your feet and break crust.  I drove the car to the mailbox one day to avoid walking, only later remembering that I could have used my ski poles to keep from sliding.  A visit to the compost bin is a minor adventure.

It only looked soft...

The Hustons and the Goudeys, kids and adults, had some fun with these ice rink-like conditions New Year’s weekend.  Sliding down the hill in front of our house down to the pond, and skidding around on the pond––that was the sport, no equipment necessary.  You’d have to be crazy to use a sled, not to mention a toboggan, in these conditions; you’d be safer doing cannonballs on a half-pipe.  I don’t think anyone did the pond slide either while standing up–too tricky.  No injuries for the younger set that we heard about, but among the adults–well, I’m conflating two events–Chris Huston banged his ribs hard, and Cliff Goudey got himself a walnut-size bump on the forehead. Fun yeah!  (We stayed inside, by the fire.)

It is so cold outside that dog poops (result of three dogs, not two, as Daisy often visits) are near permanently locked in place.  You’d need an axe to get them loose, no kidding.  (Twice yesterday Daisy and Skyler each gaily tried to carry frozen turds they found into the house.  To play with, probably, because they were basically rocks.)  Anyway, all that excrement is now covered with yet another layer of snow, to be forgotten until the next big ugly melt.  And it will be ugly.  However, all is beautiful again after the latest snowstorm––white, pristine.  Cold.

2014 is here.  A new year.  We are in a new mode, too, at last:  Ken’s treatment is over and done with.  No more early trips to Burlington for radiation, or anything.  (The chemo ended earlier last month.)  Back to ordinary check-ins and check-ups.*  We’ll kick it off with a Boston trip next weekend.

*On the topic of health, a local headline in a December 23rd Addition Independent:

                                                     Such is our local not-news.