Snow has come to Katzenstraße. There was a light dusting last weekend, the day before we shared with friends a scaled-back Thanksgiving dinner. There wasn't enough snow to shovel though. Sunday night it began snowing lightly, and by morning there was a good blanket of it up and down the street. So I had a ‘shovel experience’ for the first time since I left Salt Lake City over thirty years ago.
It wasn't too bad. We got most of it, save the icy tracks left by the cars that had already driven past the house. I showed our guests, over from Ireland, how to get to the river from the house, walking up the still snowy street, around the end of the fishing lake — really a man-made pond — and through the park to the riverside walk. The water on the pond had begun to go slushy with ice, freezing from one end toward the centre. That left a small contingent of ducks huddled at the still-liquid quadrant, dark against the snow, muttering softly among themselves as they nuzzled the snow with their bills. I don't know how they make it through the winter, but I expect they know what they're doing at this point.
The next day was a clear day with a pale blue-washed sky. I set out to walk along the riverside path myself, first taking a trail that runs alongside a wood on one side and horse pastures on the other. When I got to the beginning of the path, which is paved with tarmac, I found it hadn't been shovelled or gritted. It was treacherous with ice. First I tried keeping to the packed snow in the centre, then I tried walking along the edge of the path in the thicker snow. Still, I found that rather than stepping out boldly, stretching my legs in a good walk, I was having to place my feet carefully. When I felt my steps begin go out from under me, I gave it up and turned around, settling for a walk around the pond. It was not as entertaining — I dislike walking in circles — but at least my feet could find purchase on the dirt track.
It snowed again overnight, and I was up early shovelling it. Now it has begun snowing again, and there's at least twice as much on the ground as I removed this morning. I'm wondering if I should go out and start again. The pond too has now disappeared into whiteness. Only a slender margin of dark steel blue remains. Winter is closing in on the ducks.
Still, for all the shovelling and trouble walking, it is beautiful. The wood next to the house is a study in line, white on brown. The trees in the middle distance make a thick pattern of line against the blank sky that can be said neither to glow or to have colour. It's just a pale void. Seen from my window, the world in its stillness has a certain passivity, a kind of eternal earth-bound white gravity.
It's not entirely lifeless though. The snow capping the tree branches collapses and falls in rapid streams. Blackbirds and blue tits flit past the windows and fly up under the tall eaves of the veranda next to my office, where I've put out crumbs and nuts. The tits, tiny bright things, investigate the porous stone facings of the house, looking for seed or perhaps the husks of insects. A bird takes off from a branch, leaving the shell of a leaf vibrating in its wake.
There are tracks in the snow: those of birds, of course, and those of some small four-legged creature, a cat’s perhaps or some wild thing from the wood. The cat tracks haunt me. I look at the thick unblemished blanket of snow covering the deck over the garage, just beyond the bedroom window, and grief ambushes me again. It should be patterned with Mona’s prints.
I feel the end of the year rushing at me too quickly. I'd like to savour the days. But, truly, I'm glad November, which is a hard month, full of the memory of losses both recent and long past, is over.