Monday, January 15, 2018

Lake effect snow.

Mareefe | CC0 | Pixabay
You thought I forgot about posting this week, didn't you? Of course I didn't forget. Today is a federal holiday here in the U.S. -- Martin Luther King Day -- and a lot of businesses are closed today. So even though it's Monday, it feels like Sunday. So it's like I'm posting on time, if you squint just right.

Okay, fine. The real story is that I have a bit of personal-life business to attend to this week, so I've driven from my home near DC to northern Indiana. Alert readers of hearth/myth will recall that I set Seasons of the Fool in this neck of the woods, and there are several scenes in that book that are set in the winter, and they involve snow. And today, true to form, I found myself driving through a couple of snowstorms to get here.

I explained this once before on this blog: I grew up on the eastern tip of Lake Michigan, 60 miles away from Chicago by land, 30 miles as the crow flies. The Chicago Loop is west-northwest of Michigan City's lakefront. In winter, storms typically sweep across the country from west, or north, to east. The wind blows across the lake and picks up moisture there, then dumps the moisture -- usually in the form of snow -- when it hits land on the east side. That's called lake effect snow, and the folks who live here get it all winter long.

I was commiserating with the locals about it earlier today. If Chicago gets two or three inches of snow out of a storm, the Indiana side of the lake gets a foot. Well, maybe six to eight inches. Although the difference hardly matters when you're shoveling the stuff. And you never quite know how much you're going to get -- it depends on how much snow the storm decides to dump on you.

The thing is, you get used to it. You get out your winter coat and boots in late October or early November, and you keep wearing them through March, or sometimes mid-April. The snow sticks around and gets dirty and ugly, and more snow falls on top of it. It piles up. You spend several months out of the year picking your way over snowbanks and hoping you don't get snow down your boots or your socks will be wet all day long. And of course you go to school, because the region gets too much snow for the schools to shut down every time a couple of inches is forecast.

It's been cold here this weekend, too. We had a cold snap in DC over New Year's, and I had to think back to how my mother used to dress me so I could stand on the corner and wait for the school bus without getting frostbite. As best I can recall, it involved a layer of underclothes, then a shirt or dress, tights, pants over the tights, socks over the tights with the pants legs tucked into them, a sweater, and shoes. Then came the winter coat, hat, mittens, and boots. Girls weren't allowed to wear pants to class when I was in elementary school, so when I got to my classroom, I had to shuck several layers -- coat, boots, sweater and pants -- before I could sit down at my desk.

When I got to junior high, the school board eased up a little bit; girls were then allowed to wear pants in class if the temperature was below freezing at 7:00 a.m. Something like that, anyway.

We didn't stay indoors all winter, either. We played outside a lot -- building snowmen and snow forts, and ice skating on the tennis court that the fire department flooded for the village every year.

It's been nearly 40 years since I lived in northern Indiana. Good thing I didn't completely block out the memory of those early years -- it's come in useful several times over the past few weeks. But I hope that when I get home, it's warmed up enough that I can shove the memory back in its hole for a good, long while.

These moments of frosty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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