I write this at the request of a friend in the Philippines who asks me to look at my home in New Hampshire with the same eye for what is interesting and different that I bring to Lina’s and my travels in Asia. In David’s words, “I for one will be looking forward to your experiences in the exotic land of New England”.

So I will begin with snow, a topic that my neighbors here have heard and perhaps had enough of by now, late February of a winter that has been unusually cold and snowy.

Yesterday morning I left home at 6:45AM, and not much later my car thermometer recorded a temperature of -21 degrees F (-22 Fahrenheit = -30 Celsius). That is very cold! And the thermometer reading does not account for any wind chill, which makes those -21 degrees feel even colder.

Cold can be lethal: to a family without a home who lives in their car, or to an older person whose oil or gas has run out or who has lost power in an ice storm.

Snow also can be dangerous. Winter driving is hazardous: icy roads, high snow banks that block the view at corners, occasional “white out” conditions as wind whips snow across the road. Icy sidewalks and steps lead to falls and broken bones.   Roofs collapse under heavy snow loads, and ice and icicles can slide off the eaves onto whatever stands below.

Our house under a blanket of snow

Our house under a blanket of snow

The snow plow has pushed up a pile of snow about 7 feet high by the garage.

The snow plow has pushed up a pile of snow about 7 feet high by the garage.

An immense icicle hangs from the eaves of a building in Peterborough.

An immense icicle hangs from the eaves of a building in Peterborough.

So winter can be “serious business”.   Why then am I enjoying being back in it when, only a week ago, I was picking herbs for our morning tea and arugula for salad in the garden next to Lina’s home in Silang?

First, I am blessed with a strong and warm house; clothes that keep me warm outside; a car that starts, and a schedule that allows me to drive only when it is safe; a small wood stove that creates a pool of heat in the living room; and plenty of food to keep the inner fires burning. Many Americans are not so fortunate.

Dressed for the snow!

Dressed for the snow!

This one-eyed snowman doesn't need warm winter clothes.

This one-eyed snowman doesn’t need warm winter clothes.

Beyond that, I love the winter and snow, and because I have the good fortune to spend two months of the season in Southeast Asia, it does not wear me out as it does many who must live in it for four to five months at a stretch.

What is special about snow?

It is beautiful. When Lina first interviewed for a visa to come to the US, many years ago, the consul asked her, “Why do you want to go to the United States?” “To see snow,” she replied. He was surprised by her answer, surely the first time he’d heard this! “Why?” “I want to see what snow looks like because in the Bible it says, ‘Your sins shall be as white as snow.’ ” He stamped her visa on the spot. The snow outside is clean and shining with reflected sun. When the sun is at a certain angle, the tiny flat crystals glint all the colors of the rainbow. Snow is beautiful.

Pristine snow and blue sky

Pristine snow on the pond and blue sky

A beech leaf backlit in fresh snow

A beech leaf backlit in fresh snow

Snow is also quiet. It muffles sound. The winter landscape can be so still.

Walking as the snow falls

Walking as the snow falls

Snow makes a soft bed!

Snow makes a soft bed!

Snow tells stories. There are about 3 feet in the woods now, and the passage of a deer, or a fox, or a mouse, which would easily go unnoticed in the summer, is printed on top of the snow, or in the case of the deer, deep into the snow. We can read the stories told in the snow, and this brings me closer to the many creatures with whom I share this season.

A gray squirrel passed this way.  My mitten is there to give you a sense of scale.

A gray squirrel passed this way. My mitten is there to give you a sense of scale.

Yar and I examine tracks.

Yar and I examine tracks.

The late afternoon sun casts my shadow back along my snowshoe tracks.

The late afternoon sun casts my shadow back along my snowshoe tracks.

In winter, birds flock to the feeders on my porch, and in a few minutes I may see as many as 10 species, all this from the comfort of my living room. Their color and movement can occupy my eyes for minutes at a time.

Cardinal on our porch

Cardinal on our porch

A chickadee comes in for a landing while another prepares to leave the feeder.

A chickadee comes in for a landing while another prepares to leave the feeder.

A mourning dove searches for seed.

A mourning dove searches for seed.

Birds are not the only animals to visit our feeders!

Birds are not the only animals to visit our feeders!

Snow is also FUN! There are so many ways to enjoy it, provided you have the right clothing. Building snowmen or an igloo, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, clearing a small skating rink on the pond – these are memories I treasure from my children’s growing up and activities I enjoy today with friends and grandchildren.  They happen to be great exercise too!

A toboggan ride with Lif

A toboggan ride with Lif

Down we go!

Down we go!

Looking up the downhill (Alpine) ski slope

Looking up the downhill (Alpine) ski slope

Skating on the pond

Skating on the pond

The scoop is not just for moving snow!

The scoop is not just for moving snow!

After a game of tag on snowshoes

After a game of tag on snowshoes

Finally, we can write in snow.

anniversary

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