Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘snow squalls


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The crows are quite vocal this afternoon. They circle the tree tops in a tight crowd and in their own time light on the topmost branches, black smudges on White Birches, bare White Ash and dark-barked Black Walnut trees. All the while causing a commotion that shatters the quietude of the day. The clamor persists as more join their gathering. Then, for no obvious reason, they take flight heading down the line of trees to yet another perch to begin the process all over again. The bush behind my house is a favourite gathering place for crows.

I live on the shoulder of the Saugeen River. It is but minutes from my back door. But between the water and me is a thick forest of red tipped Sumacs, high weeds, gnarled apple trees and wild lilacs choked with wild grape vines that descends into a steep bank thick with cedars. These cedars have grown so dense that little light gets through. You must look up past their dead and dying branches to the green canopy to catch a glimpse of sky.

Somewhere along the brow of this line is a hard to detect path leading to the river. It slides down into darkness. The dead branches arch over it making the descent a sinister passage like Orpheus into the Underworld.

We seldom take that walk. We say it is because the path back up is an uncomfortable pitch for our old legs. But perhaps the claustrophobic forest recalls some deeply buried childhood fear. Why else would it attract crows?

This line of bush is different in winter, though.

Below it, the canyon that holds the Saugeen becomes a snow channel. Winds off the water charge through the harbor mouth and follow the path of the river blowing the lake effect squalls up and over our river-hill subduing the bush and trees and obliterating them under a weight of white. When the weather changes so does the view.

This is the forest outside my sitting room window.

Its tree line catches the light of the rising sun, then turns black at sunset. Green, grey, beige or white, whatever the season’s colour, there is never a time when it is boring or taken for granted. It is constant in its consistent changes.



Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

February 26, 2012 at 5:00 PM


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Long shadows lie across fresh snow. If you look closely you can see them stretching out as the sun moves slowly down behind the trees on its way to setting. Its as if they are reaching out to touch the tracks left behind by wandering deer. Its as if they want to erase the imperfections on the surface by hiding them in lines of grey.

Last night the moon lit up the dark sky as if it was dawn. Folklore says wolves are hungriest in late January, which is why their howling sounds so sad. That’s how the first full moon of the New Year came to be called The Wolf Moon.

The squalls are over now. From out of the bush birds sprint in irregular flight patterns. Their fast is over. Finches, Juncos, Chickadees and Nuthatches swarm the feeders. They peck and dart at each other with a ferocity that suggests they are frantic that the seeds will run out. This break in the weather is a chance for them to fuel-up, to store the energy they need to keep them alive through the cold nights. A pair of Cardinals waits patiently in the tree watching for a break in the ongoing melee. Their colour gives them a certain distinction, but the others are not impressed.

Snow crunches under foot. It is cold. Ice has taken over the river’s surface all the way down to the harbour mouth. Usually brown, the Saugeen’s water is now a solid white. Solid enough, at least, to support some animal that left its tracks crossing from one bank to the other. There is ice floating in the still open water of the lake. Far out towards the horizon, drifting on the wind, you would think small icebergs are heading for shore. But, the shore is a line of peaks and valleys now. Incoming surf freezes and builds on the pack ice, creating a miniature mountain range of ice on the once sandy beach.

Rising wood smoke hangs in the crisp air. Breathe in and the scent of cedar makes you smile. The sound of the snow plough sweeps through the stillness of the day. Snow blowers churn, spin, scrape, swallow and spit out wide arcs of what clogged the driveways for the last four days. Their sounds belong to this time of year but seem so out of place with the portrait I’ve been looking at.

Winter’s touch is everywhere, on everything and contradictory at the best of times.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 31, 2010 at 8:26 PM

The Snow Blower Brotherhood.

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The snow blows horizontally here in Southampton. That’s one of the first things we noticed during the first days of our first winter in our new hometown. The squalls come in off Lake Huron and blow down the Saugeen River behind our house, sculpting drifts that shift with the wind leaving my driveway sometimes clean and most times buried.

Having lived in Sault Ste. Marie and Montreal, I’m no stranger to snow, deep or drifted. But living in Toronto spoiled me with those once-or-twice-a-winter storms. So, I had to get used to shoveling all over again. And it hurt. It hurt my back. It hurt my knees. It hurt my self-image of having the never-ending strength of someone use to hard, physical work.

Finally, after four years of digging out after the snowplow passed…after enviously watching my neighbours effortlessly clear their snow with mechanical ease…after a continually aching back, I realized that joining them was the only way my aging body would survive future winters.

So, I bought a snow blower.

And, it’s a beauty. I got me a red, Honda HS724 with Hydrostatic Transmission and electric everything. It has tracks instead of wheels. I can control the angle and height of the chute with a video game type toggle, no manual cranking, no manual anything. Just set it and go, forward or reverse. Twenty minutes and I’m done. I’ve never been happier.

Right now, there are cleaning patterns to work out, wind direction and speeds to content with, all of which are proving to be a pleasant learning curve.

My neighbours have all been by to inspect and comment on my new machine. And they approve.

Now, after the squalls have had their fun, I don my lined Kamicks, my Tough Duck bib overalls, my Honda Red Parka, pull on my toque, take up my position behind my machine and turn the key. It starts first time, every time. Then I set her in gear and follow her to the driveway. I raise my hand to my neighbours – the sign of the brotherhood – and then I blow snow…with a smile on my face.