At first, the sound made me bolt up out of a deep sleep and reach for something to defend the house against an intruder, but now, I simply roll over and reach again for the arms of Morpheus. It’s only a deer eating the ivy off the cedar shakes, and ivy’s not good for the shingles.
It’s what happens when snow covers the deer’s usual browse. The nibbling came again last night and before Morpheus took me back to dreamland, I thought about snow, the sight, sound, feel, and even the smell of it. I love snow, maybe because I was born in upstate New York during the blizzard of ’47.
I like the way it changes the landscape, our perception of things, like the unusually low, full moon tide earlier this week that allowed one to walk back in time, out onto the rock reef in Montauk and view the cliffs and dunes, far away like they appeared when the beach was as broad, even at high tide.
In these parts, and especially in more urban areas, folks moan about snow. It paralyzes roadways, eats into budgets, closes schools, waaaaa!
There was a time when I spent winters in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and like other places in the mountain West, snow, deep and continuous snow, was, and is, the norm. We would see the storms coming via the news channel from Blackfoot-Pocatello just over the Tetons in Idaho. You could smell it. What is the smell? Ozone, perhaps the smell of pine and rocks captured and carried by the snow?
As it began to fall, the local radio would advise people to get to where they were going. If we were skiing — feeling, more than seeing our way down — word would pass around the mountain. The road back to town would likely be closed before long.
Not a bad thing. There was one night spent sleeping on the floor of the Mangy Moose. Upon waking, I looked out the window and watched as a drift began to move. Out from under five feet of snow emerged two malamute dogs yawning awake in the morning sun. And there was the night I awoke in the back of a pickup buried under four huskies.
The wild animals came down out off the mountains and foothills when the snow got deep. The elk herd gathered close together in the valley. Eagles watched from the treetops. Antelope pushed through the snow to find food, got their footing on roads until the plows came through and buried them. Coyotes pounced up and down on their forefeet to root out the mice and rabbits they heard or smelled beneath the snow. Huge moose wandered the roads of Jackson, or bedded down beside a car that had become a mound.
Snow fell in feet until it buried the house that I shared with my friend Bob (Wheels) Barrows and Laurel, his pretty, red-haired wife who hailed from the California desert and used “gooder” in place of “better.” You felt enwombed, cocooned. The world was muffled, all its edges swaddled in cotton.
Right about then, the deer must have quit the ivy. I slept until wind woke me at dawn, and the snow was falling once again.