The Weight of Snow

The last sailboat of the season hauled mid-week, and now we are the only residents on this side of the marina. There is a stark silence in the evenings, after work, when we trudge down the dock towards our home. We stand and take a moment with the ever-affable Hammy and gaze across the empty slips. We again pause after boarding Caprica to enjoy the stars and feel a shiver with the light northeasterly wind that is always blowing across the creek in the evenings.

Last week brought some apprehension as the weather models showed that our snow event today could have been much stronger; a nor’easter, creating potential blizzard conditions. Every morning, we with our coffee watched the weather models as the deepening low-pressure system indicated the potential to grow, develop and mature with hurricane force winds. By Wednesday, the models relaxed showing that the storm would move further to our south and strengthen offshore with massive waves and hurricane conditions. Many ships are out there now, steaming across the transatlantic shipping lanes into conditions that the officers and crews will likely talk about for the rest of their lives.

When the first dense clumps of snow fell from a leaden grey sky, I was met with a sense of relief. Not for the low potential of a snow day tomorrow but for the centering peace that I find in a Jeremiah Johnson kind of way when I stand at the edge of the dock and allow my mind to be silenced. The pressure of the week, the massive teacher to-do list and the daily requirements of liveaboard life melt away as the snow builds on the dock. The muted color palette of greys and blues are cast over the cove as the marsh grasses bend under the weight of snow.

Eleanor’s eyes light up at the sight of snow: like it’s her first time experiencing its color, texture and penetrating cold. She laughed and screamed with joy when we all went out to play, a refreshing sound that echoed through the still pine trees as Eddie jumped and lunged around her. She bent to pick up handfuls of the heavy wet snow and then threw it clumsily before kicking into high gear and darting across the field. Eddie was in close pursuit as Alison and I stood watch.

Together in the dimming daylight, we rolled massive snowballs through the picnic area field. As the snowballs grew in size, they collected thousands of pine needles that created a fortifying stratum which increased the strength of our construction. We rolled back and forth and gathered the colossal snowballs together near the parking area and lifted one on top of the other. The weight of the heavy wet snow was surprising, but with a heave and a grunt the snowman was built. We stood back to admire the Sayers creature as the aroma of pine sap penetrated the air and drifted with the swirling snow.

“The weight of the snow… ” I said to Alison and looked over at the closest pine tree that was bending and straining under the piles of wet snow that collected on its boughs. Around us, cracking could be heard every so often as tree branches buckled and fell. Moments later, the ripple sound of a thunderous crack jolted Eddie into a panic as a cascade of limbs tore away from that close tree just yards away from us. The branches fell in slow motion, just to the left of our two cars. Another shredding crack emanated from another close cluster of trees.

“Time to go home,” Alison said and motioned us back toward G Dock and ultimately to the safety of Caprica’s warm interior.

We slowly walked home and talked about what the roads will look like tomorrow and what could happen with electricity if trees continue to come down. We considered our students, some who possibly will have a cold night ahead if power goes out.

We climbed back into Caprica’s warm interior, refreshed from our brief adventure. Once wet coats and boots were stowed in the head to dry, a batch of sugar cookies began to mix.  Baking cookies as it snows is our family tradition that began with our first blizzard aboard. Tonight we sit together around the Festivus pole sipping hot chocolate and wait for those warm cookies to be done.

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