Saturday, March 01, 2008

That Time of Year

These are the days when the temperature creeps up close to the melting point, and the strengthening sun pushes sand and dust particles up over that crucial point, thawing a honeycomb of brown-lined caves into the south sides of the snow ridges along the street. I noticed it beginning a week or so ago, when the air temperature was still staying well below zero, but the solar melt had begun.

Last week, too, I noticed my neighbour blowing the bank of snow away from the wall of his house. He piles it up there all winter, keeping the house warmer, and then when the thaw approaches, he clears it away and keeps the house dry. I wonder how he knows when to do it.

These are the days when the sun warms the pavement, and any snow that sifts across it in a breeze is apt to stick. On Monday I got out on the highway and found it a skating rink, so I crept along for two miles and then escaped to the safety of a gravel back road to finish the trip to Carlyle. On Thursday I went directly to the back road.

These are the days, some years, when I am starting to wonder where I will pile the snow if I have to shovel any more. This year, I am just wishing it would snow. I'd take a picture of the snow pile, to compare to other years, but there isn't one. Aside from clearing a bit away from the doorway, I haven't shovelled snow all winter. My neighbour's snow bank against his house was so small, I think he cleared it in one pass with the blower. Our snow is just packed on the driveway, because it never got deep enough to bother. Last winter I think we had more snow on the ground in November than we've had throughout this winter. And last winter there was almost no runoff.

These are the days when I notice horned larks again. I don't know if they've just returned, or if they've been here for a few weeks but I've finally returned to the back roads to see them. What wonderful symbols of hope they are, adapting to fallow field and gravel road side, returning to this snowy barren landscape before there is any sign of spring except the quick flash of their own tiny wings and black-edged tails.


Deb said...

Nice post, Laura. The "honeycomb of brown-lined caves" is so descriptive!

I'm feeling the beginnings of spring myself,in how snow and ice melt against a southern facing wall, even on a day that began with below zero temperatures. And I experienced the wind driven snow sticking to the road thing on Friday. I love my all wheel drive vehicle.

Apparently it's been snowier here than there. We might get some snow/freezing rain tomorrow. Right after I cleared the skating pond. Sigh.

No horned larks here. I guess we're not enough prairie for them.

arcolaura said...

I covet your snow! Funny how it depends on your perspective. I talked to a woman here who doesn't want any more snow because that will mean that her oilfield-worker boyfriend will be around the house too much during break up. Hmmm.

I think you're right, the horned larks are quite specific to the open prairie. I think I remember reading that they formerly followed the bison herds, living in the heavily grazed near-barren areas, and now they have switched to human-bared areas. But it's a perilous existence, as human habits can change suddenly - gravel roads get paved, and summerfallow gets replaced with continuous cropping or chem fallow. But summerfallow gets plowed, too - I wonder how they deal with that?