Friday, April 18, 2008

Out of Season

Below is an essay I wrote a few months ago in hopes that it might make the Independent’s “Front Porch." I do not think it made the cut.

I put it here as a reflection on the season. It has taken a few years of living back in North Carolina to adjust my inner calendar to the rapidly approaching and long lasting springs that are so wonderful down here.

Out of Season

I had lived in the South my whole life before a move to central New York State in the summer of 2002. My wife and I were North Carolinians who had met in Louisiana and relocated together to Nashville, Tennessee. It was now my turn for graduate school, so we heaved our camp chairs, china, and clothes into a big yellow truck and drove to Ithaca. Many of our acquaintances became fixated on the horrible winter weather we would be forced to endure. We politely explained that, “Yes, we know it snows in great big heaps up there.”

I grew tired of hearing how snowy it would be. I expected and welcomed the change. Upstate New York was not Fairbanks, and cooler summers sounded especially nice. In August, we began paying rent on a 150 year old farmhouse turned duplex. Two of the windows held box fans in the warm months and a distant view of Cayuga Lake when the trees were bare. There was no central air-conditioning.

That October, I stood in line at Target holding a snow shovel for the first time in my life. The fall leaves were past their peak and the dreaded Lake Effect Snow Machine had started to blanket counties between us and Lake Ontario. No one seemed to take much notice, and I tried to play it cool. An email to friends shared news that we were forecast to have the white stuff on our Jack-O-Lantern. In November, a fleet of snow plows began to appear, skimming roads of an inch or two at a time. Their muffled grind past our house and into town comforted us on many nights. A metal drum of heating oil was full and new weather-stripping hugged gaps in the old window sashes. Winter was here to stay and we were ready.

The next four and a half months did not get us down. Snowy days became part of a familiar routine. I had my first white Christmas. We went to movies and ate hot subs at a family owned joint near Trumansburg. Our camera took shots of a frozen waterfall and I finally got to use the “new” down jacket that had languished in the back of a closet for five years. Fresh snow kept things bright and soft. This was not too bad.

But I was unprepared for April. Daylight had increased and a traditional semester break in March was cruelly labeled “Spring Break.” Warmer afternoons melted snow while evening hours froze it in sheets and chunks. Coming home during one of the last few weeks of class, my car met a track of icy-slush and failed to stop. I maneuvered helplessly past another vehicle and slid backwards into a curb. The nose of my dirty red sports coupe pointed towards the late afternoon sun, well hidden by clouds. I thought about the azaleas that were likely blooming in my parents’ yard six hundred miles south and tried to descend the hill again, this time using first gear instead of brakes.

The hardest part of that first winter in New York was undoubtedly spring.

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