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This is my least favorite season the older I get. There were high points in my youth. I remember teenage years in a Detroit suburb when we would get our first snowfall and it called for a walk even at night as one could enjoy the quiet and the beauty before all the traffic turned the pristine white into a sad gray mess.

Years later I remember those rare times in California when we would get snow on Mt. Diablo and take the kids to see it, but it was sparse and fleeting. When we moved to Maryland for ten years, we got our fill of winter, snow and ice. I just remember the commute hassles and the problems for working parents when schools were closed. I remember the first year there when my husband had a business trip to Atlanta and we (the kids and I) woke up to snow; our VW Beetle was completely covered, not even recognizable as a car! And of course, having moved from California, we had no snow boots, no snow shovel and no really warm clothing. I hiked to the store in my tennis shoes to get enough food to ride it out.

We moved back to the Pacific coast but this time to Seattle; our first Thanksgiving was a snowy weekend and we gradually became accustomed to the inevitable shutdowns as hills were impassable and the city tried to recover from a deluge with one (?) snowplow!

Now I am at high risk for falls and so I can’t even enjoy that first pristine snowfall. I tend to hunker down in winter and try to read my way through. There are times when I want only comfy English village mysteries without too much blood and please, no abductions or torture. Just a gentlemanly murder or two.

Recently a book by MFK Fisher fell into my hands: As They Were. I once read a short story by her that told of a special meal when she ate one of those endangered birds (the ortolan) that are so prized; I was appalled! Since that time, I have been a little afraid of MFK Fisher. However, this book is quite readable. (Although I still cannot forgive her for eating the ortolan.) It is a series of articles from her various homes in California and her travels in France, primarily in Provence. She has a deep interest in place and describes her current place in all aspects; the sounds (even overheard conversations!), the smells, the sights and, especially the food. Her vivid descriptions will evoke memories of places you have been. I was especially intrigued by her chapter on noise when she was living on a narrow street in Aix. Her description of an unidentifiable motor bike that seemed put together with baling wire and packing tape and miscellaneous parts reminded me of our stay in Florence. The excessive noise reverberated between the tall buildings on the narrow street and one sighed a deep thankful blessing when it finally faded into the distance.

Noise is a part of modern life; I find it humorous twice a month in the middle of the night when The Monsoon comes down Lake Dell and E Alder St; it’s the huge street cleaning device that does no good on our part of E Alder. We have the only street parking on the length of Lake Dell and E Alder, and it is completely full at night, but The Monsoon dutifully makes not one, but two swipes at street cleaning. If only they came in the afternoon, they might have more luck!

I find the noise of the bus struggling up the hill comforting and not annoying; I like the fact that I live in a civilized city that has some public transportation. I remember trying to sleep at my folks when we would visit; they lived at the top of one of the mountains in the Coast range of California and one could not hear cars or buses or even planes, just the occasional coyote. It was frightening and sleep was hard to come by... So much, too much quiet!

So, I hunker down with my books trying the escape the cold and the grey skies and the fact that I wake up in the dark and it is dark again by 4:30pm. I long for Spring when there is proof that there is still life on earth; the daffodils will poke through the snow saying it’s our time now!

~Diane Snell

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