Monday, December 17, 2007


All around our town, the pickups and SUVs have sprouted snowplows for the winter . After big snowstorms, you see a lot of stocking-capped men driving around, shovels up, in an almost priapic display of self-sufficiency. We had our second big storm of the season over the weekend, and already the endlessly salted streets are looking as bleached as old bones. I went out after lunch today to get a few Christmas gifts, and the sun was so low that it looked like it was getting ready to set by mid-afternoon. The snow is piled up in mounds in front of our house and we have some truly impressive icicles hanging off our ice-dammed gutters. We are in full winter siege mode here, and it’s not even really winter yet.

On Sunday morning, right after the latest of the big snows, I got out my skis and was able to ski from the front door to the river about a mile away. I went out onto the pier to get a view down the river, where just a few days before I had seen a wild swan swimming. There was no swan this time, but all down the banks of the river the tree branches, coated in ice, were silvery in the sun. When I turned around to head home, one of the men in the snowplow trucks was making his way toward the pier. He pulled up alongside me and rolled down his window. “I saw you go out on the pier,” he said, “and I thought you were going to jump in the river.” We both laughed, and I didn’t bother trying to explain about looking for the swan. But I skied home in the path his truck had made in the street, where he had scraped away the deep powder and left a slick, packed layer of snow and ice. It was the fastest and best skiing I had found that morning. Mr. Plow comes through again.

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