No more of the embarrassing El nino induced snow dustings that have characterized the last couple of snow seasons. (OK, so we got 13.5 feet last year. By our higher standards that was an almost "no show snow"!) Gone too is the warm, sun-drenched pastoral scene of springing green grasses and fooled spring flowers of this early December, a La nina phenomena that had even the most die-hard local anti-snow types gazing at their rusting scoops and snow blowers with a new sense of longing.
Instead, as I gaze out across the frozen harbor waters, my view is obscured by swirling snow - both new snow generated by the massive lake effect snow machine sitting just offshore, and old snow gathered by fierce northwesterlies to be dumped at some unsuspecting windbreak, usually a roadside tree line or camp lee. Evergreens, especially the big pawed pine and dense spruce, stand like a gathering of medieval knights in white armor. Roadside snowbanks have suddenly grown from edge defining windrows to steep walls of blinding white. The snowbank outside my window is now cartop high, and seemingly growing a foot a day. Snow sitting on window boxes obscures the lower two feet of my big front windows, forcing Abby to crawl up on a chair to bark her greeting to the waving snowplow driver.
The wonderdog, however, doesn't seem to share my joy about this situation. Her early morning trip into the blackness that is our lot until several hours after I rouse her from her LL Bean dog bag (nothing but the best for this pooch), is a quick dash among the drifts. There is quickly a frantic scratching at the door. The short haircut I subjected her to about a month ago is probably a contributing factor. By mid-day, however, she's more game, and will happily romp and roll in the deep snow cover, now at least three times her height.
Abby shares my nervousness about driving in the now almost constant whiteout conditions. Last week, she paced and whined on the bench seat of my van during a harrowing several hours of zero visibility on our trip back from Minneapolis. She probably sensed how frantic I was. It was one of those trips when you dare not stop for fear of being in the approaching lane or getting smashed from behind, so you just crawl along listening and feeling for the rumble of a right wheel digging into the roadside snowbank.
When we finally found our way into Fraki's parking lot at dusk for a food stop, the very spooked wonderdog leaped from the van and scooted through the automatic door for a wild romp among the startled clerks and customers - me in hot pursuit. The merry chase wound up in the dog food department (where else) where a collection of employees and customers calmed her down with affectionate "good dogs" and heavy petting. I was steamed, but the adoring assembly left me little choice but to join the "good dog" chorus, or risk the wrath of Abby's newfound friends. Only the wonderdog could get away with such a caper!
This incident reinforced my belief that a good old fashioned winter, such as we are now experiencing, brings out the best of folks in the Keweenaw. There is a strong sense of looking out for one another, of seizing upon the little joys of life, such as Abby's happy romp - the kind of behavior you might expect from people accustomed to living in a remote location, in both a physical and "worldly" sense, and under weather conditions that other folks might consider threatening. Probably not unlike the way people dealt with winter life here a hundred years ago.
This "good neighbor", finding joy in small things, behavior is quite evident among the dwindling Harbor population. I, for instance, have been blessed with neighbors shoveling my snow, watching over my camp during frequent "medical" trips, keeping my wood supply adequate, and just checking up on me when I seem to be out of touch. Our little community tree trimming gathering before Christmas, was a classic "little joy of life" event. These things, of course, are a part of what makes Eagle Harbor so special at any time of the year, but in the grasp of a good old-fashioned winter, they seem more apparent.
The winter storms and deepening snow are certainly a source of much pleasure for some of us, especially those of us without the reponsibilty of work, but the really good news is the warm and caring community such a winter engenders.
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