Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Camelot-not: Winter, mid-latitudes

"...And there's a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot..."

Lyrics by: Alan Jay Lerner

And who wouldn't like it that way?  Alas, here in Camelot-not, in the mid-latitudes of temperature and precipitation variations, there is no such thing as rules for the weather.  

I was reminded of that while watching the  local forecast today.  We had a snowstorm dump 8 inches on the 26th of December, and an additinal 4 inches over the folowing few days. It has remained cold; Camelot in action, I think.  And now?  A January thaw.  A BIG January thaw.  A week's worth of temps well above freezing through the day, and flirting with freezing overnight.  Oh, and a couple days of rain mixed in.

No matter how you stack it, it adds up to ice.  And with 3/4 of a mile of country lane between me and a public road, no matter how you stack it, ice adds up to...adventure?

That might not be the correct word, but hey, I'm trying to be upbeat about all of this.  I like snow, and I even like the cold, but ice? Now there's something I've had a love/hate relationship with all of my life.

Part of that probably comes from having lived on a hillside since the day I was born--and I was born in mid-Decemebr when the season of ice was just getting a grip.  My dad used to joke that we all had one leg longer then the other just so we could stand up straight.

My dad was an ice-fighter from way back.  He'd save the ashes from the fireplace to sprinkle on the paths leading down over the hilldside to the barn, the grainery and corn-cribs, and to where the car was parked--waiting to haul us to the Catholic school 5 miles away. 

I can picture an icy winter morning, making it almost to the top of the hill on the lane, my dad leaning slightly forward, a death-grip on the steering wheel, and he'd rock, forward, back, forward, back (not the car--him). The tires were singing as they spun at breakneck speed while we went nowhere. Just sitting on that hill spinning.

I could see my father's lips moving--not sure what he said to himself, but always sort of figured it was prayer--"Dear Lord, just nudge us up over this last little bit of hill and we'll be on our way."

And I knew that, just like me, my younger sister and all three of my brothers were, no doubt, reciting prayers of their own, "Dear Lord, please, don't let the car make it out the lane. Please, let us stay home today."

Obviously my dad's prayers held much more weight than ours--combined. I can't recall a single ice-fighting morning that we didn't make it out the lane, and then to the Catholic School. ~sigh~

One winter morning, years later (and years ago) , after my father (along with his direct prayer line to God on icy days) was gone, I was living in that same valley with those same hillsides.   I went to bed knowing that the night was cold outside of the house. Still, in the sub-freezing end of evening, there was something in the air, something faintly recognizable as a Chinook. There was something almost alien about the gentle wind kicking up. It felt like it could warm up a bit.

My alarm sounded at 4:00 AM, set so early so I could be on time for my 5:00 AM start at work. I hurried to dress and pack my lunch, then was ready to go.

I poked my head out the door and discovered that it was raining and  warmer than when I'd gone to bed.  Pennsylvania February...marginally less predictable than a Pennsylvania January.

I started down the hillside to where my Jeep was parked, doing the side shuffle-slide-scoot-scoot move with my feet the whole way down past the springhouse. Then the hill got really steep.  I sized it up in the pitch black of the winter morn, and knew I had no time to dally. So, I went for it.

The side shuffle move worked for a split second, and then I was on my hip, being sucked down the hill by gravity on the rain-slicked ice. There is not time to think when things like this happen. Any amount of elevation and subsequent grounding can lead to bad things--broken bones, concussions for example. So, I instinctively stretched uphill, sliding with my feet first.

The rainfall and the melting ice had converged at this part of the hill, fairly flushing me down in the middle of a small stream. Nothing like an ice cold romp in a temporary creek. ~the memory is funny--but I was pretty crabby that morning~.

I continued to gain speed, and in the darkness, even panicked, I could see the Jeep tires looming ahead. Stretching, I rolled from my side to my stomach, reaching...reaching...   while the world continued to blur behind me. I lunged for a tire, hoping to grab it's studded lug tread, but soon discovered how it must feel to compete in a greased pig contest at the county fair. I had it for a second, and then...gone.

I was now sliding down the hill on my stomach, perpendicular to the hill, making a five foot wide squeegie of the water ahead of me.  I won't lie: four letter words let loose from my mouth--and they weren't dang! or darn!  Briefly I pictured my journey continuing down across the lower pasture field,  and then being dumped into Rough Run Creek.

Right where things briefly leveled out, I finally slowed, you know, right where all of the water slowed too. I was now laying on my stomach, on top of ice, in a small pond/very large puddle. 

At this point, it became quite clear that it was actually a really bad idea to try to drive the Jeep out a half mile lane of sheet ice slicked with rain.

I then began the arduous journey back up the hill, on my hands and knees.  As the old saying goes, "three steps forward, two steps back."  The hill was a lot longer going up than it was coming down. 

Ice 1 Teresa 0.  I didn't make it to work that day.  It was one of those silver wintery days, when rain came and went, and a gray veil of mist hung among the trees and fields.  

My tea was hot, my clothes were dry and warm. And I'd added one more story of survival in the harsh winter of Camelot-not in this mid latitude existence.


  1. great story. i love snow as long as i don't have to drive in it!! :D

    1. Thanks, Tammy! Me too...if only we could sit at home and look at it ;-) Thanks for visiting. :-)

  2. Note to self: avoid living on hills.

    Teresa, did you know that Ice-Walking is a recognized part of the unofficial Everyday Winter Olympics?

    1. haha--avoid hills- at east when it's icy. ;-) No, Kate, I didn't know that about the unofficial Winter Olympics. I tried to look it up. Are you jesting me? lol??? I really don't know.

      It was nice to have you visit! :-)

  3. Oh my! What a vivid picture you painted. I'm ashamed to admit that I laughed as I read, but I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time.

    1. Oh my, lol, Ian, please don't be ashamed to admit you laughed. I laughed when I wrote it. The irony of me and my siblings praying for the exact opposite of what my dad was praying for. And really, I still chuckle when I picture that early morning slide down the hill. I'm such a natural at it, lol. ;-)

      Thank you for visiting--and so good to see you! ;-)

  4. I found a set of strap-on "ice and snow spikey doo-dads" for hubby's trek to work. They seem to do nicely, although I am not sure even they would have met your challenge that day. :O I enjoyed this story , as usual, my friend. :)

    1. Ha! You have me stumped. I'm scratching my head trying to picture whose hubby is wearing ice and snow spikey-doo-dads, lol. Thanks for visiting, my friend. :-) !

  5. Oh yeah, I hate driving on ice, especially in the dark. I've never had an experience like that, though! Normally we've got it quite bad at this time of year in Scotland, but luckily it's pretty mild, just rain.

    1. Me too, Nick, and in the dark is the worst! I'm glad you're getting rain instead of ice. The rain is gray and dreary, but I remind myself on rainy winter days that it's easy on the furnace and wee don't have to shovel snow ;-)

      Thank you for visiting. ;-)

  6. Ugh, I'm not sure which is worse, ice or mud. The great thing about summer is no one ever has the worry about the footing. I'm glad you survived your misadventure :)