Tuesday, February 15 2005
Since returning from Ecuador, I've found the weather unexpectedly temperate here in the Catskills. Last night it snowed for awhile, briefly threatening the gathering to view our DVD slide show. But then the precipitation gradually turned to rain and this had the beneficial effect of further eroding the remaining scraps of two month old snow.
Temperatures were in the forties today and I took the dogs for a long walk in the forest, starting on the road to the neighboring farm and then walking the whole way home on the main stem of the Stick Trail. There's a section of the remotest part of the Stick Trail where it runs through a shrubby forest near the crest of a south-facing slope. Particularly in sunny weather, it's always much warmer there than it is anywhere else along the trail. The microclimate there is so bright and cheerful that its effect is therapeutic. It reminds me that winter isn't so bad and won't last forever.
Of course, part of the reason it stands out so much as a refreshing break in the wintery gloom is that our house is situated in an unusually cold microclimate. Though it's at the top of a east-facing slope with lots of morning sun, our house is also at the base of a low north-facing slope topped by large evergreen trees blocking the view of the warm southern sky. Despite the fabulous view of the sunrise over Connecticut, anyone with any sense about housing sites would have picked a better site. Snow persists around our house much longer than it does elsewhere and in the winter there are only a couple hours each day when the sun is high enough to shine down on the front walkway to possibly melt accumulated ice.
I think back on my childhood in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and remember our sunny house on its cheerful south-facing slope, where almost any snowfall melted in a matter of days. By contrast, the auto-body-repairman/gun enthusiast living in the trailer across the road had the misfortune of being at the base of a steep north-facing hill. Snow around his trailer and body shop would persist for weeks. It was as if he lived several hundred miles north of us, and yet the view out his window was of a sun-bathed homestead overgrown with weeds. As for us, the view across the street was of a faintly blue-tinged arctic landscape. Unlike us, our neighbor cared a great deal about his curb appeal. Hidden unseen beneath his snowy drifts was a well-manicured lawn and occasional limestone outcrops painted silver or white. And deep within the mountain of ice made by the passing snowplow was a preternaturally black African American lawn jockey. He displayed none of these things with even the slightest ironic intent.
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