The Joys of Blizzards

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Why I Love Blizzards

Margaret Boyles

There’s a lot to love about a good, old-fashioned blizzard. But first, let me dispense with the caveats: There’s a lot to love if you don’t have to travel by car or plane and if you have a safe, secure home with emergency provisions!  So now, a few blizzard joys . . .

As I write this, we’re in the final hours of a storm that dropped more than a foot of snow in a 24-hour period, during which the temperature didn’t rise much above zero and often dipped way below. We’d half-filled the bathtub, readied the rechargeable flashlights, positioned the kerosene lamps, brought in the shovels, and filled the wood boxes. We have emergency provisions for water, heat, light, food, and a means for communicating with the rest of the world in case of a power outage. 

Now, all inconveniences aside, blizzards are are a lot of fun. Here's a few reasons why I love blizzards:

Mandatory Exercise
Around my place, a blizzard demands exercise (aka physical labor), and a lot of it. We all need exercise for physical and psychological well-being. Why not do it simultaneously with productive work?

First, there’s hauling armloads of firewood in and buckets of ashes out from the two stoves that keep us warm and cook our food. 

Then there’s the shoveling!  We hire a guy to plow the driveway, but we have a lot of hand-shoveling to clear pathways to and from the chicken coop, the woodshed, and the tool shed/garage. We have to rake the greenhouse roof, then shovel around the base to prevent the snow that slides off our pitched roof from building up above the greenhouse glazing and blocking the sun. During a big snowstorm, we typically gear up to shovel every couple of hours to keep from having to handle the entire load when the storm is over.

Then there’s the snowshoeing, which has been called floating on snow and walking on water. Breaking trail and trekking uphill to the compost pile carrying a 5-gallon bucket of kitchen scraps counts as one short bout of hard work. But snowshoeing lets you play outside during and after a blizzard, when walking or running aren’t possible. An hour of it can burn more than 1000 calories (especially breaking trail while going uphill in deep, fluffy powder). Add trekking poles to the jaunt, and you have full-body muscle work at its finest.

Best of all for me: it’s so exhilarating, it never really feels like “exercise.”

Silence & Sound
Blizzard conditions keep most people off the roads and muffle the sounds of vehicles that do pass by. Deep snow keeps the sounds of the industrial world at a distance. When I walk around outside, the natural world feels deeper, more peaceful. 

And yet, blizzards compose their own orchestral works from the falls and crescendos of wind, the creaks and groans of frozen trees, the crash and crackle of ice formations on trees and buildings. In the white world on snowshoes, my own sounds embrace me: the crunch, thud and crackle of my shoes and poles, my heavy breathing.

Wildlife signs
Ascending the hill behind my house or tromping through the adjacent woods in fresh snow after a blizzard, I discover all sorts of mammal tracks. Over the years, I’ve seen the tracks of rodents (squirrels, mice, rats, and porcupines) to hares, weasels, fishers, white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, bears, turkeys, and moose. It’s thrilling to share these landscapes with so many fellow creatures, most of which I rarely see during the winter.

Fertilizer “Poor man’s fertilizer”? Not really. (Snow may deliver a little nitrogen and not much else that’s beneficial to the garden beds, although it does efficiently scavenge and concentrate environmental pollutants. Not much joy in that fact.)

But deep snow does provide insulating cover for many susceptible woody plants. Below-zero temperatures kill many overwintering insect pests (though probably not disease-causing ticks). And of course, the spring snowmelt recharges our underground aquifers and provides essential moisture for our crops.

Slowing down indoors 

When youre snowed in, you are forced to slow down and take it easy.  All the bustle and hustle comes to a halt.  We drink hot chocolate. Make a snowman. Play games. Do some work. Watch the natural beauty of a world covered in a white wonderland. 

Many blizzards bring power outages, which can last hours or even days. We’re always fairly well-prepared: woodboxes filled, bathtub half-filled with water for toilet flushing, stockpots filled with drinking water, plenty of food (including canned and dried emergency rations), kerosene lamps and battery-powered flashlights at the ready.

An outage forces us to go dark. It not only shuts off the lights and the water pump, but keeps us from watching TV and doing all the things we do on electronic media.

During the last outage, we played Bananagrams for several hours by the light of three kerosene lamps, until our brains tired of the exertion of making words. It was fun, and it kept our minds occupied with something other than anxiety.

Carl Sandburg wrote, Let a joy keep you. I think he’d have embraced the idea of blizzard joy.

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Comments

Donna LaRocca (not verified)

11 months ago

I have no idea why I feel this way, but i have always (even as a little kid in S. California) wanted to be snowed in, in a cozy place in the mountains. I once told my Massachusetts- born mother that I must have been a Yankee in a previous life! I enjoy the feelings of being able to weather anything Mother Nature has in store, and find great satisfaction in being self-sufficient. I have a well-stocked pantry, grow some of my own fresh food, and if I didn't live in a subdivision in the Cascade foothills, would have at least 3 chickens and a milk goat (so I could make cheese)! I think you are so lucky to have your connection with Nature and the daily joys of your life, and I'm grateful that you share it with us at the Almanac newsletter. Best of New Years to you.

Celticcrone (not verified)

7 years 10 months ago

Living on the smallest of the Canadian Provinces, Prince Edward Island, we have our share of blizzards. Usually they are not quiet ones - they are rip roaring nor'easters with drifting and winds that shriek around this old house. But I do agree that I enjoy the silence of a snowfall whe it happens - somehow I seem to be more in touch with nature then than at any other time. The stars overhead, the snow, the trees of the forest - it all combines to be magical.

celtblood (not verified)

7 years 10 months ago

By all means, enjoy your blizzards. Here in Kentucky, when I was growing up in the '60's and '70's, we had regular blizzard conditions, and even our city schools were out at least a few days due to heavy snow. From the end of November through to the end of February, and sometimes even on into March or April, our area might see several inches on the ground most of the time. Sadly, the weather here has changed drastically, and some Winter seasons bring little more than a mere dusting of snow here and there. This not only disrupts the seasonal cycles that were once so inspiring, but it increases the amount of insects and weeds the next Spring, and the soil isn't as good.

So never take a good, healthy Winter for granted, and make those blizzards a positive thing. The way things seem to be going, there may come a time when none of us get to enjoy the stark, quiet beauty of a robust snow.