Winter is Back

While I was out walking our big dog Rodney last week, one of our neighbors emerged from her house, spread her arms wide, turned a broad smile to the heavens and happily proclaimed, “We’re having a heat wave!”

She was exaggerating, of course. With temperatures in the 40s, it was still fairly cool outside, but I wasn’t going to quibble with her. The East Coast was just coming off a deep freeze that saw iguanas go catatonic in Florida and sent wind chills well below zero in parts of New England. It was so cold where we live in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, taking Rodney for his customary spin around the neighborhood was daunting. My wife bundled up so much, you could only see the whites of her eyes. So yes, it was noticeably warmer – a heat wave, even, by comparison.

By Thursday, it was even more balmy. Highs topped 60 degrees in my neighborhood and rose even higher on Friday – a fact that did not go unremarked upon. While I was taking our daughter to school Friday morning, she said “it feels like springtime in January!” She was not wrong. I half-expected to see confused daffodils begin poking out of the ground.

The oddball weather gave the guys in sturdy leather work boots (the kind I wear for show) renewed vigor. They shut down the road in the lower part of the neighborhood and had the backhoes and shovels out, again – cleaning up from the New Year’s Day water main break and making some upgrades on the water line aimed at keeping another break at bay, or at least making the next one not quite as bad.

The break that left us without water for a while was just one of a slew that kept crews busy from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard. Run a search for “water main break” and dozens of articles turn up – from Chicago to Baltimore to Cape Canaveral and New York City.

For a few days, at least, the fixit crews called upon to deal with all that carnage didn’t have to risk frostbite while they worked outside, but “Springtime in January” didn’t last long. Temperatures plunged back below freezing over the weekend and now a little bit of snow is in the forecast.

Looks like the daffodils are just going to have to wait. Winter has returned to form and there are plenty of water mains to break before it sleeps.

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Since I mentioned my beard

Because I suspect you’re dying to know why I trimmed my beard after I mentioned giving it a buzz cut yesterday, take note of the weather at my house – it was 76 degrees this afternoon.

It’s early in the year, but with temperatures this warm, trimming my beard simply seemed like the right thing to do. I now look more like my social media profile pictures than I have in months.  

When I say I trimmed my beard, I mean most of it. I left my mustache and chin alone, but the rest of the hair on my face is now so short as to be negligible.

I should probably suck it up and shave, but here’s the thing – spring may SEEM to be taking hold, but trusting the weather this time of year would be like trusting our big dog Rodney not to bark maniacally when it’s time for a walk.

Better safe than sorry.

A little stubble for the time being seems like the right idea. After all, there are still several more weeks of winter on the calendar.

By the way, don’t tell my wife I wrote about my beard. She already thinks I’m too obsessed with it.

This will just confirm her suspicions.

A little shovel diplomacy between neighbors

Although temperatures are expected to be more springlike this weekend, I’m not ready to put up the snow shovel just yet.

There are still too many reminders of winter around my neighborhood, the biggest being the piles of snow that have yet to melt from last month’s massive storm.

To be sure, the snow from that storm is steadily disappearing, but the dregs are being stubborn, especially where the snow was piled up along driveways and sidewalks.

And even though the mountains the plows created at street corners are greatly diminished, they are being even more stubborn.

They were once piled as high as the stop sign across the street from my house and had slopes the neighborhood kids would have skied down if we had allowed them. Now that they are more like mounds instead of mountains, they are much less tempting to the budding winter sports enthusiasts among us.

One of those plow-created mounds is in our yard, near one of our Bradford Pear trees. The snow around it has melted, making it look like an iceberg floating in the green sea of what passes for grass at our house.

A responsible neighbor would mark it with a warning sign. If one of those things can take down the Titanic, just think what it could do to a car if it somehow ran off course and skidded into my yard.

Before the sun came out this week, there were other signs that winter is not ready to relent.

There was last weekend’s cold snap that put Valentine’s Day into the deep freeze. But before you blame me for the frigid holiday, take this into account: I remembered. It must have been some other hapless husband who forgot the flowers and chocolates and made the rest of us shiver through the holiday as if it were giving us all the cold shoulder.

Following the Valentine’s Day freeze, the snow that fell early Monday morning made the commute to my job in Washington, D.C. more interesting than usual. I was more than an hour late, slowed down by snow-covered interstates.

I don’t usually work Monday mornings. I had been scheduled to fill-in for a colleague. Despite the difficult driving, though, I was actually thankful for the change. Otherwise, I would have been driving home after my regular shift through the middle of Tuesday morning’s more dangerous ice storm.

As it was, instead of taking my usual siesta after the kids go to school and my wife leaves for work, I was rested enough to scrape our driveway.

And I know this will be hard to believe, but I was feeling more energetic than usual. Rather than putting my shovel up after finishing our driveway, I went to help a neighbor down the street.

Don’t be impressed. I waited until he was almost done.

My neighbor still thinks I’m a nice guy, though.

If a little extracurricular shoveling is all it takes to score points with neighbors now and again, I think I’ll keep my shovel handy.