David Nightingale: Winter

At five,  I take the old farm path, past the horses.

The sky is purple, with long stretches and swaths of other colors across the silent evening, one horizon to another. Some previous snow is still clinging to the north sides of barren trees, as well as lying on a few upper branches. Hard to believe there'll be greenery again, one day.

One of the horses droops his large head over to my side of the broken barbed fence, sweeps some snow sideways with his powerful nose and chews at remnants of hay, maybe from yesterday's feeding. His coat seems warm and cuddly, but – as with a woman – not sure I should stroke. Don't want to risk a kick or a slap.

Tonight, after midnight, the noreaster will come, they say, and tomorrow we'll wake to a foot or more, maybe 18 inches.

Forty-something years ago my friend and I got out of town for a day. Winter had dragged on too long. We had a task: fetch grandma's old car from the Schuylerville area. After her death the blue Dodge Polara with the push-button automatic selector switches and wide front-bench seat was to come to our little family, for a very low price, from the estate settlement. With two shovels my colleague and I dug it out from the massive snows of those late '60s. It had been completely buried, an undulation, asleep for many months – or perhaps it was just a hillock in the field. It started right up, purring as if new. Grandma had kept it in mint condition.

I leave the horses and continue along the lane towards a massive broken down barn, still managing to keep hay dry. It's not misty, but the sun is a fuzzy weak glow, not far above treetops, like a far-off lantern squeezing undelineated light through purplish-yellow clouds reminiscent of flat strips of multi-colored play-dough. No wind, just the quietness of farmland, and the calm before the storm.

I used to live in an industrial city, soot and rail yards and no fresh air; did that for 2 years. Although blessed now by rural surroundings, it's no longer good enough; cabin fever is beginning to hit. After a horrible flu – which wasn't meant to be because of the November flu shot surely – escape is needed; nothing seems to satisfy any more. Winter's gone on too long. A good meal? A warm night's sleep? A long hot tub? Temporary respite only. Surely we've had enough cold season for now?

But that old Dodge Polara really was something. With thick-treaded snow tires and its thousands of pounds of weight, it managed, seemingly to go everywhere. Thirty-five cents a gallon – and so heavy and strong the boys could jump off it's roof into the snow drifts, without bending any of its metals.

The morrow has come. They were right. Rocks and an upturned boat have foot-high white top-nots on them. Clouds have less exotic coloring than yesterday evening. Snow off the house's roof has formed the opposite of a moat: five foot mounds, encircling. I shall have to hand-shovel a path to barn and blower. Luckily, we didn't lose power.

But, for now, fantasize: imagine a day – perhaps within 6 weeks? – when the sun is beating down so strongly that one will shed one's shirt, outstretch the arms, and soak in the deep warming rays of an 85-degree day! Ah – dream on.