Thursday, December 10, 2009

Searching for the North Pole

Peary Sledge Party and Flags at the Pole. Orig...

My horoscope this morning suggests the heavy issues of Wednesday will give way to lighter ones today. Ordinarily, I'm inclined to think the stars and I speak different languages, but this time the translation may be pretty accurate. In the course of yesterday's storm, all that light, lovely, fine snow -- Maine's version of Colorado Champagne Powder -- turned to rain. What had been easy to shovel at first, became sheer labor. It paid off, though, because now all I have is a thin layer of slush to remove before an tomorrow's Arctic front transforms my yard into a glacier.

I grew up having a love affair with snow. We lived in the country -- how "country," you ask? Well, the street in front of our house was a dirt road, how's that? In the summer, my mother dreaded passing cars because they stirred up a cloud of dust that managed to settle, naturally, on every level surface in the house. Pledge was always on the grocery list.

A dirt road in winter has its advantages. For one thing, when your tires start spinning, sooner or later, they're going to strike the gravel beneath and gain traction. We also had less traffic because fewer people were inclined to "take a drive in the country." That was fine with me because it meant crossing the road to the wheat field beyond didn't require permission. My dog and I could go at will and we often did.

Trudging through the drifts -- "trudging" was one of my favorite words as a kid -- it was easy to imagine she and I as companions of Robert Peary, searching for the North Pole. Of course, one or both of us usually got cold, so the "discovery" occurred at the point we decided to turn for home. It's funny how the Pole seemed to shift it's location with each successive snowfall.

As an adult, common sense might suggest the wisest thing to do on days like yesterday, is stay inside by the fire and wait for the plow guy to come. But I can't resist going out and clearing a path to the barn or a place for my dog to do his business (even though he prefers to romp through the snow). With the flakes falling around me it doesn't take much at all to stop, catch my breath, gaze into the forest, and wonder if the North Pole still lies somewhere, just beyond, after all.

(Public domain image of Robert Peary at the North Pole via Wikipedia)
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