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Our Winter Solstice
It’s no secret that much of the US has struggled against the winter of 2015: The serious drought in California continued despite the winter’s torrential rain and mudslides in certain parts of that state; the grueling -40 degree temps our friends experienced in places like Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin; and many other hardships as giant storms and arctic winds spread for thousands of miles – from the Midwest to the East Coast, and beyond.
I’ve heard some people say, "New Englanders are whining because of a little snow.” As a resident of Massachusetts, I wish that were true. During a span of two and a half weeks, we were hit with seven feet of snow following a steady barrage of blizzard, after snow/ice storm, after blizzard, all peppered with strong or gale-force winds and below freezing temps. You hoped that the roof didn’t collapse or you didn’t lose power because your doors were blocked by heavy snow dunes. It doesn’t take long before you run out of room trying to relocate tons of Mother Nature’s icy-white calling cards in such a short period of time. And she made sure to replenish them, frequently. (We stopped counting at eight feet.)
People weren’t digging walkways in the snow, they were burrowing deep trenches. As for clearing your driveway, if you didn’t have an iron back and heart -- or a snow blower with a blade base measuring 26-30” wide -- you waited for a bobcat or team of shovelers to arrive. You needed a lot of ready cash-on-hand for these wonderful fellows (they deserved every penny), and gallons of piping hot coffee and chocolate.
The roads in our neighborhood – and others – were plowed into single-track, rutted pathways that were actually gauntlets. Other streets were completely impassable. Car owners either kept their vehicles buried in the snow and ice (many had no choice), or continued to dig them out, creating icy stockades in the process.
As you can probably imagine, mobility was severely hampered, restricted or banned until you began to feel like one of the mole people. In Boston, certain streets and areas had to be closed off. The narrow one-way streets of this historic city weren’t designed with automobiles and snow mountains in mind. Street corners and highway on-ramps were pocked with white towers – a number of them, reaching over fifteen feet high. Ice hung from office buildings and windows like giant, saber-toothed beards. Employees couldn’t get to their jobs. Transit systems were sheer chaos, even when operating which wasn’t often.
Regardless of hardship, people across the country have gone out of their way to help their neighbors. Drivers keep extra coats and gloves in their cars to give to the homeless. Some leave warm garments on fences and benches to be found later. Volunteers shovel the driveways and walkways of the elderly and the sick without seeking recognition or compensation. A number of individuals continue to organize food drives for local shelters. Others open their homes to those in need. These are our guardian angels, those silent voices within that inspire us -- not in the saying but in the doing.
As we look forward to the spring equinox, memories of this past winter linger -- not just in the measure of snow or bitter cold, but in the acts of kindness we embraced. May this time of solstice remind us all that even in winter, the flowers of the heart, bloom.
The above video, "Late Winter, Early Spring," was created by SWP Life Illuminated of YouTube. The music is an instrumental composed and performed by John Denver.