Ralph Gardner Jr: Oh, Snow

Dec 16, 2017

I did something last week anathema to my nature. I tried to avoid the snow.

It was traveling from south to north and I was heading from the Hudson Valley to Vermont. So I tried to get ahead of it.

I was on my way to West Pawlet to interview my friend Angela Miller for a project I’m working on about people’s second acts.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American life. I beg to disagree. As we’re getting older and living longer, the landscape shifting under our feet and things like pensions becoming quaint anachronisms, second acts and even third and fourth acts almost seem required.

Angela’s case is slightly different. She’s managed successfully to juggle her first and second acts simultaneously. As a literary agent – that was her first act – and as a prize-winning goat cheese farmer whose Consider Bardwell Farm cheeses are featured on the menu at some of America’s finest restaurants.

But I can talk about Angela and where her drive and stamina comes from some other time.

The subject now is the white stuff. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding a childlike thrill at the news of a weather forecast that includes snow. As far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier.

I know not everybody shares my excitement because I frequently hear them complain about the snow. As if its just one more annoyance in a world filled with them – delayed trains, bad bosses, those chirpy robocalls – Hi, I’m Amy!” --that dupe you into believing you’re conversing with an actual, live human being.

Does anyone actually fall for that after the first ten words? Do they sit there chatting with the recording? Do they end up buying stuff?

But I digress.

My first childhood memory, at three or four years old, involves snow. I’m on my way home through Central Park at dusk. Walking beside my baby sitter who is pushing my younger brother in his stroller when it starts to snow.

I feel a combination of awe and well-being, a transcendent coziness knowing that home awaits with a warm bath, dinner and bed.

And deep into middle age that awe hasn’t dissipated. Neither has the desire to recreate, as often as possible, the winning combination of an outing in the snow followed by a warm bath.

I’ve made some adjustments, of course. I drink more scotch and less whole milk than I used to. But I continue to strive for scenarios with a high coziness factor.

That’s why it felt so unnatural to be fleeing the snow last Saturday afternoon.

Though, factually speaking, I wasn’t fleeing it. I was just trying to get a jump on it. There was a lovely feeling that it was nipping at my heels. Or at least my steel-belted radials.

Also, the forecast wasn’t for a blizzard, for whiteout conditions. In meteorological parlance, the National Weather Service was issuing advisories rather than warnings. The prediction was for a manageable few inches. Just enough to cover the landscape.

By the way, did anybody else notice those stripes on the roads caused by deicing trucks spraying some sort of liquid or chemical? Highway crews were doing just that as we headed up the Taconic State Parkway Friday morning and I also saw the stripes again on a local road in Columbia County.

Perhaps I’m just not that observant – I know I’m not that observant – but I don’t recall such precautionary treatments in previous years.

I outran the snow somewhere around Hoosick Falls and it was clear driving until I stopped for a restorative burger at the Burger Den in Cambridge, NY.

As I was preparing to pay my check a waitress looked out the window and announced, “It’s starting to snow,” without rancor and perhaps with a little of that childlike wonder I hope all of us share.

The future of this country, and this planet, it increasingly seems to me, will depend on the forces of awe and humility beating back those of cynicism and certainty.

I returned to my car and outpaced the snow once again, reaching Angela’s farm before it did. She wanted to get some fresh air and walk her dog Rambler, a good-natured mutt. Even though Rambler has an overly self-assertive habit of nudging you at the dinner table, as if to say, “Hey buddy -- How about throwing some of that grub my way?”

We walked down a long dirt road, over a stream and past cornfields, as white tail deer bounded away in the distance.

It was beautiful even in the solemn greys and browns of late autumn. But as we turned back the flakes started to fall. We reached the barn, greeted by the farm’s herd of goats who seemed excited to see us.

I like to think it was less because they associated Angela with food, or because it’s still mating season and the musk of the farm’s bucks was in the air. Or even that they’ve finished milking for the season and their only responsibility is to take it easy and eat for two.

No, the reason for their enthusiasm is that it was the first snowfall of the season and these were French Alpine and Oberhasli breeds that welcome the cold weather. By morning the place would be covered in the stuff. With more of it in the forecast the days ahead.

Winter, happily, had arrived.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

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