Getting the Drift

The snow just kept coming. With winds howling a banshhe cry as it wound its way throught the trees and buffeted the buildings of the tiny farm, the snow just kept coming. It didn’t fall so much as race in a horizontal unending tide. Already the drifted snow had reached the base of the second story windows, and showed no sign of waning. The house was lit with hurricane lamps and candles, the hiss of the lamps harmonizing with the song of the wind outside the windows. Power had gone out hours ago, so we spent our time in the kitchen where the wood stove that produced the family meals radiated its warmth. Some of that heat wound its way through the ceiling, warming the floors of the rooms above, but not with sufficiency. We would be glad of the thick down quilts piled on our beds to keep us snug through the night. Although the scene might be interpreted as a kind of arctic hell, we were relaxed as the we sat about the stove and chatted or read in the dim and flickering light that divided the spaces with alternating light and dark areas. The conversations ringed the subject of past New Hampshire winters, a source of awe for my child ears. Warmed with cocoa we were tucked into our beds and swallowed by the puffy down mattresses and quilts around nine o’clock.

The morning broke with brilliant sunshine streaming through the upper windows; the rooms below were bathed in a bluish glow of reflected light. It came through the windows, filtered by the snows that stacked twelve to fifteen feet in depth. With a Christmas morning excitement, we kids filed down the stairs in our wool pajamas, wrapped in the quilts we pulled from our beds and they dragged behind us and we thumped down the stairs to breakfast. Pancakes and syrup, maple syrup we had taken as sap from the many maple trees and boiled down and down to thick viscocity was dumped freely on the stacks. We more shovelled than ate, anxious to get outside and see what wonderland that mother nature had drawn in the passing night.

The front door was frozen. Ice crystals framed the doorway and we had to tug again and again before the door finally saw it our ways. It opened suddenly when our pulls finally overcame the grip of the ice and snow. We all said “ooh” and “ahh” as the open door revealed nothing save a wall of white, shaped exactly like the door even to the little pit of the door knocker that sat at eye level. A shallow tunnel where the doorknob had been. Trapped! All of the downstairs windows revealed the deep snow drifts that oddly enough favored all four walls of the house, showing that the winds in the night had come from every direction. The grownups bade us to go ahead and pummel our way through the door, telling us not to worry about the snow that would cascade into the mud room as we attacked the white wall. We had to get to the barn, save the cows and chickens, goats and pigs woul have to go without food or water.