22 February 2007


Here’s what the snow does: It shuts down Highway 50, which is about a half-mile down the mountain from here. The mountainside usually magnifies the sound of traffic, especially the growl and rattle of the semis, but when it snows enough, all that stops and a hush falls. From inside, the snow falls silently, but if I go out, I can hear it, soft, oh so soft.

It’s after 11 a.m. now and it’s been snowing since about 8. There’s at least 4 inches of snow on the ground, and it shows no sign of stopping.

Here’s what snow does: It narrows my world down to the warm house and the short distances I can see from my windows. Whatever else is happening out there in world becomes unimportant in the greater distance. On the highway, people are griping and cussing because they have to wait if it they want to go up or down the mountain. Up is Tahoe with its beautiful ski resorts and magnificent lake – it’s Thursday, and you can bet there are a lot of skiers on the road, taking a couple of spontaneous days off so they can enjoy the deep snow building up at the resorts just 40 miles up the mountain from here.

Soon they’ll all be griping more, because the plows will have cleared the highway, but with the storm still on, vehicles will be required to have chains on their tires. There’s a whole industry that takes care of this problem for well-heeled ski enthusiasts from the Bay Area – local guys in snowsuits, thick gloves and thick grins, the fur around their hoods rimed with ice, charging $50 or more along the side of the freeway to put chains on cars for their snarling, eye-rolling, lowlander owners who aren’t dressed for snow-kneeling. Some people will have to turn around and go back down the mountain and buy chains; they’re the ones that think their SUVs can climb Echo Summit on summer tires because, you know, they own an Exterminator with 4-wheel drive.


I just went outside and stood on the porch in my slippers, camera in hand. The dog went for a quick romp and came back, and as I asked him to stop and pose, a big drift of snow slid off a branch from high up in a cedar tree across the road at the top of the drive.

“SsssSSHHUUuuussshhhhhh...” it said.

Dog got all shy, like he does every time I aim the camera at him. And still the snow falls. Forecast said maybe we’d get an inch or two at this elevation. Tomorrow.

Here’s what the snow does: The Steller’s jays stop scolding each other. They disappear deep into the evergreens, grudgingly making room for their shouting-buddies on the branch. “Yeah, come on in, Fred. It’s cold. Lend your feathers, puff up, boy.”

The house finches and goldfinches vanish too, along with the tufted titmice and bushtits and rufus towhees. The robins won’t be back for another month, yet, but there are daffodils blooming under the snow by the drive, now. I saw a tiny Anna’s hummingbird flitting among the dormant climbing roses the other day; I wonder where a hummingbird goes when it snows, and how it stays warm, being such a tiny, solitary bird. The Bewick’s wren pair, I know, are huddled deep in the tangled blackberry, grapevine and lopped pine hedgerow that forms a border between our up-hill neighbor and ourselves.

Here’s what the snow does: I stop writing, go to the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. I notice the fire has burned down in the stove, and put a couple more heavy, split almond stove-lengths. As I pass the sliding window, I notice the wood pile, covered with a brown tarp and a huge load of snow. When I go out there, perhaps sooner than I’d expected to, I’ll be digging my way through the snow to get to it. I smile. The dog is gonna love this. While I’m up, I notice the juncos are out at the suet feeder. They’re migrants – they only live here in the winter time, and when it snows, they’re about the only birds it doesn’t seem to bother much. I snap a few photos, hoping I’ll be able to figure out how to get them, along with the other photos I’ve been taking, into Blogger.

12:30 p.m.: Snow is still falling. It’s like a dream.


Madison Guy said...

Beautiful photos and post. Hard to get snowbound like that in a city. I envy you the forced exile in whiteness. And Steller's jays, yet! I've only seen them in the summer in Big Sur.

chautauqua said...

Dress warmly lest you turn into an actual Blue Wren!

Lovely photos. We used to get snow like that here in Minnesota. Not lately, though.