When Sand Turns Cold: Between The Seasons

[The Lake Colby Beach in Saranac Lake, NY. Photo is mine.]

This is an odd time of the year. The autumn colors are past peak (yes, there are a few places where the reds are blinding and the yellows can bring tears to your eyes)…but the peak foliage in its intensity is essentially gone until next October, or late September (depending on the summer rains).

It’s a sad time. The public beaches have hauled in the lifeguard chairs and the floating docks. No mothers wander about looking for toddlers, no cheerleader is working on her tan line. No quarterback is working on a Malibu bronze complexion. That’s all okay…it’ll all fade in three weeks time (unless they still use a bottle tan mixture like they did in the ’60’s.)

Still hikers take to the trails since most of the bugs are gone.  The kayaks are being put up in boathouses for the long winter. Year-rounders are stacking wood for the stoves in their cabins.

The skiers are busy waxing and sharping their edges at the local ski shops.

Sam Adams has come out with the Octoberfest brew.

Local micro-breweries are putting up the taps of the newest Pumpkin flavored IPA.

But the beaches are gone.  Sure one can go and wrap up in fleece and try to read a book…but’s its changed.

I have a distinct memory of jumping out of our family car in the parking lot of Golden Beach…sometime in the early 1950’s. We had a campsite, but none of my brothers wanted to put off the swimming. My feet, the tender feet of a child burned as I ran toward the water. I couldn’t make it. I ran back and jumped in the waiting arms of my father. He carried me, tenderly across the burning sands and gently put me down in the cool waters of Raquette Lake.

Summer is gone again. The first snowflakes are a few weeks away.

And, then the WINTER sets in. Sometimes until mid-May. I grew up in downstate NY, near the Finger Lakes. We had four distinct seasons. Up here in the North Country it’s more likely three seasons.

I live on Ibuprofen because of my back pain.

So, we are off to Portugal in mid-December for 2 1/2 months of warmth. It’s not Florida, but it’s cheaper.

I wonder what things will be like in five or seven years.

Will it matter?

Walking In A Winter Wonderland


Sure, I could be walking down this snowy, quiet and picturesque road.  I could be thinking about the approaching holidays, the snow men, the fire in our downstairs living room wood burner…but I don’t imagine I’ll be making this walk.  Don’t get me wrong, I love snow.  I always have.  But as I stand in the middle of this road to take the photo, I can feel my lower back aching from the shoveling I already did twice today.  And now my left knee hurts.  What’s that all about?

It’s Monday afternoon.  On Saturday afternoon, I was on our roof in a tee-shirt and a leaf-blower and a pair of ear protectors (they look like high-end Bose earphones).  I couldn’t hear a thing.  The only way I knew the blower was ON was to watch the twigs, pine needles and wet leaves fly away…away to the back deck and the front porch.  This would require another half-hour of leaf blowing.  I stood on the roof like the Colossus of Rhodes…like Paul Bunyan.  I looked down at my wife whose job it was to help keep the extension cords from kinking up.  She was saying something to me.  I couldn’t hear a thing.  She could have been saying “the house is on fire and I just called 911” or she could be saying “I need to go to the bathroom”.

That was just this past Saturday. On Sunday, it began to snow.  It’s 5:30 pm on Monday as I write this and it’s still snowing.

That’s a quick transition from late fall cleaning to mid-winter torture.

Take a look at the next two photos.  The top one was taken an hour or so ago.  The next one was taken a year ago almost to the day (give or take a week or so).  Which photo shows a happy contented 69-year-old guy?  Which one depicts a senior citizen who is cursing the weather gods and feeling his lower back going south?



Trust me.  Both photos are of the same man.

No, I don’t think I’ll take a walk in a winter wonderland.  Instead, I’ll pour a glass of Cabernet and watch the darkness descend on the view toward the lake.  I’ll think of how quick things change.  How you’re young one minute and lost in late middle age the next.  How your friends are laughing and loving and talking and dancing one minute…and then their heart stops the next.  I’m not being morose here…I’m still grieving my childhood buddy, Jimmy Merrill, who passed away last Thursday.

Old friends, old loves…and memories.  I’m Irish so I tend to dwell on these things.

A little dose of melancholy falls into everyone’s lives.  It’s not a bad thing.  I just have to keep my eye on the future and the fact that there will be a day when the snow will melt and the crocus and the Lady Slippers will grow beneath the ferns and color will return to the world.  It’s so monochromatic right now.  But, that’s to be expected.

Another month must pass before the days begin to get longer.


A Room With a View

Everyone likes a room with a view.  Otherwise, why do we need windows?  Does anyone want to look out over the Fresh Kills Land on Staten Island, the Gowanus Canal or the latest toxic runoff pond from some mine in northern Canada?  No, we don’t.  And, I believe I can speak for most of us, we all want a view, but a view filled with beauty.

Below is a photograph of our bedroom window.  When we were looking at the house prior to buying it, we looked out all the windows…to check out the views.  Some of the things we could see were nothing to write home about.  Like our front porch.  Nice, but not something you’d want to look at for more than a minute or two.  Our living room picture window provided a killer view of Rainbow Lake and our little dock down the hill.  The kitchen window gave us a superb view of our bird feeders (as well a fine line of sight to our Kenmore BBQ, which is a real feast for the eyes.  But our bedroom window was in a class all by itself.  From the comfort of our four-poster, we could watch the seasons as they marched through our little front yard in all their timely glory.

In the Spring, we could look out and see the Purple Tirilium growing in the small thicket that partly hid our house from the road.  I could watch the ferns grow and cover the ground around the evergreens with a lovely carpet of greenery.  I could see our car, the r-pod and the back door of the garage that had a window planter I had attached to the rose colored cinder-blocks.  Bright red flowers hung from the pot like a Bavarian chalet.

In the Summer, we could see the small patch of grass that served as our lawn.  I could also get a fine view of the new stone walkway our neighbors, D’Arcy and Judy so artfully constructed.  If I leaned a bit, I could see our cottage sign, Tir Na Nog. That was the name of our cottage.  Many of the local cottages bore names like Heron Point, Three Pines or Camp Trout.  Our house was named for the Irish myth and meant “Land of Eternal Youth”.  I could also see the car.

In the Autumn, the few hardwoods would be aflame with colors of the brightest yellows and reds.  The ferns would begin to go brown.  The sky would turn grey and the mushrooms would push up through the dying ferns.  And, I could see our car.

In normal Winters, we could see the boughs of the pines holding the soft, pure snow.  The little animal tracks could be seen on the virgin snow.  Oh, the snow!  It would fall and swirl about like we lived in a glass snow globe.  On clear nights, I could go to the deck, wearing a cozy woolen sweater and watch Orion make his hunting journey across the small patch of clear sky above our house.  Out of our bedroom window on winter days, I could see the back door of the garage, the bright red flowers, faded now.  And, I could see our car to study the few inches of snow it had covering it.  Then I would gleefully take the broom and brush the dusting of snow from the car’s roof, then make fluffy snowballs to toss at the scampering squirrels and they darted here and there trying to find their nuts.

But, this winter.  The great winter of 2013-14 was a different story altogether.  The r-pod has vanished beneath a small mountain of snow. Our garage may or may not still be there.  For all I know, someone could have taken it during one of the snowstorms…or on a night when it was -23 F and I failed to check why the garage wasn’t visible anymore.  Our car?  It may be still in the driveway…maybe not.  I’ve given up trying to keep the snow off it and from fallen down my back from the two feet of the white stuff that clung to the overburdened branches of the pine trees…if the pine trees are still there.  Even the squirrels have given up trying to find their nuts.  We have a young man who comes out after a snowfall and plows us out.  We get a bill for every visit.  I made some calculations.  We’ve just paid his child’s tuition at Yale.

The mountain (not a mound anymore) of snow seen from our bedroom window is large enough now that I’ve given some thought to installing a chair-lift…just for beginners, though.  Maybe a luge course?  Maybe a training area for Everest climbers?

At this point in the post, I know most of you don’t believe me so I took a picture from our bedroom looking out at the view.  See the lovely lace curtains?  See the cool dream-catcher?  See the white/grey view through the window?  That’s snow.  That’s all we can see.

This is our Room With a View.