Even after nearly four decades living in New England I have not quite become accustomed to the fact that the weather on any day can be completely opposite than the previous one. This day was no different. Following an early summer like day of sun and sixty degrees, today was more seasonable for late November with gusty winds and blowing snow. Still till early in the season for the snow to really stick, but the branches on the barren trees had a white coating and the evergreens took a light frosting as they bounced about in the wind. Being the Sunday before Thanksgiving one might imagine the snow is a welcome sight for the peddlers of Christmas trees and wreaths as they have already begun to fill the garden centers and roadside stands. You might imagine a family driving along Route 101 with the mother exclaiming how excited she is for the holiday season, the weather being an inspiration for such thoughts. The children, immersed in their ipads and iphones, seemingly ignore the sentiments until their mother draws them into the conversation. “Yes, the holidays, Mom. When are we getting lunch?” “Oh look, Dear, the Christmas trees have already arrived,” she states as their SUV speeds past. “I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to get our tree today?” Dad grimaces, they have a schedule to keep. The Patriots kick off in an hour and they are at least thirty minutes from home. “Come on Honey, let’s go back. Kids, don’t you want to pick out a tree?” Mom inquires. “Do they have food?” chime the passengers in the back seat. “Fine, I will turn around. I mean, they will be the same trees if we wait a week, so, whatever.”
The wind and snow don’t seem to hamper the chickadees and sapsuckers that frequent the bird feeder. Maybe the icy precipitation causes them to scavenge more in anticipation of worsening days to come. Or perhaps, it’s that those same conditions cause me to be inside on the couch snuggled up in a fleece sweater watching the birds fly here and there, stopping for a moment to steal a morsel from the feeder. I imagine they are there other days, as even after pleasant days, I find the feeder in need of refilling. But those warm and clear days find me not lounging on the couch, but puttering around the house and yard trying to fulfill all the necessary tasks to prepare for the winter to come. I do feel a duty to keep everything well stocked for my avian friends so as to encourage their visits. One might consider it a symbiotic relationship, I providing a source of sustenance, they giving a reason to pause and gaze out the window and make a small but meaningful connection with nature.
Living in an old New England home has many charms. There, of course, is its history, and one may be able to imagine how our ancestors filled the space and lived their daily lives. There sometimes occurs a sense of duty to take care of a home that was built with basic tools and working hands and maintain the traditions that the previous occupants may have observed. It would also seem that some sort of hardship is expected when living in one of these houses. It might be cutting, splitting and stacking cord wood used to stoke the woodstove or fireplace whose use add to the character and ambiance of the place. It might also be the creaking and cracking of the old wood floors and beams which over time have settled unevenly. At various points through the home there may be an extra shim or shingle under a table or desk so as to level the working surface. And then there are the old drafty windows. Sure these are easily replaced and there is much to be gained in efficiency, but no new window can match the aesthetic of looking through a pane of glass whose age is shown through waves and ripples. These imperfections are as if time and gravity have caused the glass to warp. But they have withstood many years of nature’s worst and seemingly avoided an errant or misplaced rock or baseball. On a windy day they bang and rattle and the air whistles about, looking for a gap or void to slip in through. Certainly from which side you peer through the window will lead to different sorts of views. Looking out, one may watch the snow falling, a slave to any wisp of wind, pushing it about. There are times when it appears that none of the flakes will reach the ground as they create circular patterns and crisscross about the sky moving in one direction only to be redirected back from where they came. Looking in, you may find a child waiting patiently for the ground to be covered white, a new smooth surface with limitless possibility of sliding, snowballs and snow people. Will there be enough to cancel school? Will the piles be big enough for snow forts and secret caverns? A new fallen snow is winter’s chance at a clean slate, covering up, just temporarily, the forgotten leaves and browned grass. Opportunity seemingly abounds as seen through a clanking old window, where if you stand close enough, you can feel the cold seeping through. The chill being held back by an extra log on the fire and a wool sweater draped over the shoulder.