January 1, 1995
New Year's day and a newly fallen snow, completely covering the ground. So pristine in the early morning sun it makes me wonder why no one ever sings about dreaming of a white new year. A fresh start. Last year's leavings so well hidden, it's momentarily hard for me to believe how green things were just a week ago. And warm enough too on Christmas day that I was walking around outside in just a shirt and a lightweight sweater. And so were my daughter, Hannah, and my son-in-law Monty and my grandchildren Ben and Lizzie, visiting from California. Actually, it almost felt as if I were in California rather than here in Iowa. And well I might have been, given the radishes and turnips I was harvesting, thanks to the warmth of the fall and my spun-bond, polyester row-covers. But now, all the marks of that day are gone. Hannah and Monty back in California. The radishes and turnips eaten, row covers put away, the soil turned and completely covered with a different kind of white. The row cover of winter.
Still, the snowcover's not so thick that I can't see the rolls and ripples of the land beneath it. Especially when I'm looking down on it from my big windows up here in our attic-study. The outlines of the garden beds are also visible from here. And the heavings of the turned soil in the beds. And the remnants of Kate's footprints back and forth to the bird feeder in the pear tree. The snow turns the landscape into a memory of itself, selectively marking the comings and goings, the doings and undoings that have taken place on it during the past several months, or weeks, or days, or hours. Preserving the rabbit tracks and deer tracks of the pre-dawn morning. Concealing the frozen shreds of lettuce and leek at the newly turned end of the vegetable garden.
But there's nothing like getting outside to take the measure of things-or have them take the measure of you. Before going for a walk with Kate in midafternoon, I thought the wind was relatively light. Just a slight swing of the feeder in the pear tree and a faint rustle of dried clematis at the end of the gazebo. Nothing to worry about. But we weren't out more than a minute or two, when Kate, who doesn't ordinarily fret about such things, announced matter-of-factly "The wind is sharp." And a few minutes later, "It's steady on." And a few minutes later, "There's ice in it." Sometimes winter is best in small doses, especially at first. So we headed back home again, where I checked the Weather Channel and discovered that the temperature was eleven degrees above and the wind blowing at sixteen miles an hour to produce a wind-chill factor of seventeen degrees below. No more dreaming of a white new year. I'm still remembering a green Christmas.