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In My Own words

February Flashback

Katherine Au
MSM English Major - 1998

(3/10) March is usually the month when I start to think about spring. Somehow the name says it all to me, spring marching onto the set and starting to turn the landscape green once again, the cold marching away and warmth beginning to sweep across the atmosphere, spring flowers beginning to creep up through the earth to bring the first signs of vibrant color after so long of barely any shade beyond grey or brown. But, this winter has been different for me, for now I can still barely think of spring even though March is just around the corner. I know it will come whether I anticipate it or am prepared for it; one of the beauties of the seasons is their coming and going without our permission or direction. It's just that this winter has shown me new depths of what winter can be, for even now, as I write this I still barely see any earth exposed at all, even brown or grey; rather, all the color I see on the landscape around me is white save for the bits of paved blacktop carved out of the snow to allow life to be mobile again. So, for this March I'm hoping spring leaps into our lives full of surprise, for even now the cold, bleary days hold sway to winter.

It's not a yearly occurrence to have a blizzard every winter, let alone two, but this winter clearly has not been normal, and neither has my life, as a matter of fact. I started February working two jobs, living in a small cottage on a horse farm where one of my jobs was located, nursing a hand that had been bitten by a horse--and then absorbing the life change of a new job offer. How does a new job offer relate to a blizzard? Well, the old saying, when it rains it pours…snow is just winter's way of raining, and all the major transitions of my winter into spring came right around our second blizzard of the winter. I was just about to encounter both the fury of an additional actual blizzard as well as a life blizzard.

I had already been through one blizzard on the farm and only recently had just seen all the fields with no snow. I had already helped dig out the gates, beaten down paths with the horses, unfrozen locks on gates as well as water in water buckets, and now, just after the world was snowless again, another storm was predicted to hit, and this one was rumored to be worse than the first. And yet, hearing people talk about thirty inches or so of snow still didn't prepare me for what thirty inches actually was. I did, however, prepare as best I could--I had extra gallons of water, extra food, and gasoline canisters full for the generator. So I was ready to "hunker down" and let Mother Nature do her worst--right? Well, not quite. I was also scheduled to move in the middle of it all!

My parents had come up the week prior for a performance in D.C., and hearing all my "life blizzard" news, they decided to stay around for a while since it seemed clear that a little bit of help might be in order. (Maybe they just wanted to see if I could actually pull it all off in the midst of the biggest projected blizzard in memory!) Since I had decided to move and leave my horse job, they figured they could at least help with the packing since I was planning to work not just one job but two straight through the move.

In the span of days just before the blizzard hit, I had accepted the new job offer, given notice to my full-time job, found another place to live and signed the lease, and given notice to my other job and current landlord. My move date was set for the Monday after the blizzard was set to hit on the previous Friday. I'm nothing if not interesting with my timing. Life happens quickly, I've learned, change even more quickly sometimes, and I've learned to roll with the flow or else get washed away.

I literally started moving the morning the blizzard started later in the day. I still had one hand in a brace from the horse bite, so although it was protected it was a bit precarious carrying boxes and bags, but I had some time between feeding the horses and when I needed to be at work, so my dad and I used the time to take over a couple of loads to the new place. (Thankfully, the distance from one place to the other was less than two miles.) My dad continued to take over loads of bags and light boxes throughout the day until it became clear the roads were getting too bad to travel safely. At that point, Dad, Mom, and I prepared to ride out the storm and try to keep ahead of the shoveling process. We knew we needed to keep a path to the shed beside the cottage and to keep its doorway open since that was where the generator was located, and I needed to keep the pathway open to the manure spreader. Dad and I became very good friends with our shovels.

Saturday morning brought the dawn of a new day, but we had lost power and more snow was forecast to fall. There was nowhere to turn out the horses, so stalls were done with horses in the crossties. Then as soon as the barn was done, the process of digging out the truck began with my dad. Dad had gotten a jump start on it all while I was doing the barn, but as soon as it was clear that the snow had stopped falling, we both hit it with a vengeance. If Dad could get the truck out to the main road, then maybe he could get to my other house and maybe it still had power.

We were able to dig the truck out late on Saturday, and Dad was able to get out to the main road. It became quite evident though, quite quickly, that although he was able to get the truck out of the drive and the few yards to the main road, he was not going to be able to get back into the roadway to my house. Luckily, however, he got to the new place and informed Mom and me that it had power. So, with two dogs and sleeping bags, we abandoned the old and tromped off to the new. Of course, I had to be dropped off at the roadway's entrance the next morning so I could walk in to feed the horses, but at least my walk was only less than five minutes. A neighbor had to walk in to the end of the road to feed his horses, and it took him three hours just to get in.

So did I ever get moved? Yes, indeed I did! Life, I've discovered, is full of wonders. Wonders come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are symbolic; some of them are literal. On the symbolic side, shortly after the snow had stopped, my father and I were shoveling a pathway for the truck to leave, and my father noticed that there was blue sky peeping through the clouds. It was such a wonderful sight, and as we were talking about how Native Americans must have thought it a great sign to see blue sky after such a snow, we saw a bald eagle flying overhead. That event truly seemed to herald a good omen.

Symbols are important, but sometimes life needs some literal wonders as well. The day after the snow stopped, I looked up from my barn chores and here came the biggest caterpillar tractor I had ever seen opening up the road; then two men who were asking for work shoveling driveways showed up at the door of the new place. They got more work than they had planned! Using Dad's pickup truck as well as their own, they moved the big furniture pieces and the heavy boxes and moved me out just two hours ahead of the next storm which began on Tuesday afternoon.

Winter may not yet be over, but the digging out from the "great blizzard of 2010" has been accomplished. The "blizzard" of my life has calmed down as well. I now have only one job and am getting settled in a new home where I feel comfortable and secure.

As Emily Dickinson puts it: We "meet the Road--erect--. . . And Life steps almost straight." I'm ready to be surprised by spring!

Read other articles by Katherine R. Au