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The Storm That Wasn't & The Cold That Was

Garth Brown |

It would be an overstatement to say the storm this past weekend was a non-event, but it was certainly less of one than was forecast. Instead of 18-24 inches, closer to a foot fell. While this is not a trivial amount of snow, it isn’t out of the ordinary for central New York. But the near blizzard pulled in its wake two days of brutal cold.

The most obviously dramatic shift in temperatures takes place at the freezing point, when puddles in the driveway harden and moisture in the air crystallizes into glittering shards. But this does not hold true for the sensation of cold. The difference between 60 and 30 is significant, but less so than the difference between 30 and 0. Monday morning was well into the negatives with blasting wind.

In these conditions any patch of bare skin begins to burn two steps from the front door. The rushing air scours away warmth, and there’s a palpable increase of blood flow in response, the body’s painful method of staving off frostbite. After a few minutes of facing it head on the impulse to turn away from the wind becomes overwhelming. Tears are pressed out onto eyelashes, where they immediately freeze.

The pigs vanish beneath a layer of bedding in such weather, venturing out to the feeder for a few snoutfuls and then diving back into the pile with their brethren. The cows and sheep tank up on hay and then hunker down in the treeline beneath the ridge. The chickens spend more time perched shoulder to shoulder with feathers puffed up to trap their warmth, but they still lay dozens of eggs, though most of these freeze before they can be collected.

There’s beauty, of course. The wind pulls a continuous curl of powder, thick as smoke, from the roof of the hops barn. When the clouds finally blow out to show the sun the air itself has a clarity and brittleness particular to extreme cold; the sky is a deeply saturated blue, while fields beneath positively glow, and you can’t help imagining that winter might just continue forever.

Garth Brown

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