I am learning about snow.
The average snowfall for December is twelve inches, but until Dec 28, less than one inch had fallen. So when the forecasters told us a storm was coming, and that we should not travel, and that there would be huge accumulations, and that we’d likely get 12 inches in 8-10 hours time, we didn’t really take them too seriously.
We were having too much fun.
On the day after Christmas, extended family arrived. ( Thankfully, our children had already come to spend Christmas with us a few days before.) We rented a large house nearby for our nieces and their families along with our sons and daughter-in-law. We (and Dave’s brother and wife) slept in our home less than one mile away so that the cousins could just be cousins. During the day, we ate well, laughed a lot, took nature hikes, painted ornaments, golfed, had our own Heyse TED talks, built campfires, read to little children…
In the late afternoon of our last day together, the winds picked up, and the snow started. We piled everyone in cars and headed to Cave Point, which is where everyone who knows Door County goes in a storm to watch waves crash against rocks for spectacular views.
And even after years of watching summer storms with violent raging waters, I’ve never quite seen the fury of Lake Michigan look like this. There was sleet and there were high winds. The water was roiling, crashing, angry. The snow was on its way.
But we blithely returned to our family fun, occasionally commenting about the gathering snow outside.
What parents want to leave the all-to-rare-moments with their grown children and go home just because of snow? Heck, we have a Subaru , and we had less than a mile to drive home. We were happy inside, but a blizzard was raging outside our door.
Now we know that we were foolish. Now we know that Wisconsin blizzards are something to respect and fear. Now we understand that when driving on roads with no streetlights and whirling snow, it is impossible to make out the pavement and the turns and the corners. Now, we realize that we should have heeded warnings and started home earlier. Because at 10:30 that night, there were eleven inches of snow on the roads. Deep snow. Alarmingly, the deep dark of night and the swirling of blizzarding flakes meant that within minutes we found ourselves hopelessly stuck . It was dark, and we were relatively far from houses . We were not too afraid; we were two blocks from the rental house where we knew our 20-and-30-something children would come to push us out. ( Which they did, within ½ hour.)
Still, it was disconcerting; the sleet battered, the snow was blowing and banking all around us; it was hard to see anything. If we had been by ourselves, we would have been in danger. The snow, though pretty, was fierce.
So we will be more careful in the next storm. And like most locals do, we will stay in until the plows come. We will hunker down when the forecasters tell us to. We will wait for clear roads and daylight until we try to drive.
Because the flip side of the terrifying kind of snow is the glory of snow.
We drive out for errands ( on nicely plowed roads) past this.
We go for a drive through our favorite state park and marvel at the snow-laden evergreens and hardwoods.
And the patterns in the branches:
Or we put on snowshoes and walk pristine paths, studying the tracks of animals that share this land with us.
For long expanses through evergreen forest, it is quiet, except for chickadees and jays. The world seems soft. The snow glistens.
There is danger in snow; I’ve learned that. But there is also peace, quiet, stillness, calm. Like so much else in nature, the natural phenomena at which we marvel are equally and both these: terrible and beautiful, horrible and satisfying, dangerous and good.