Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The snow at night is big and bright

    On February 14, Fern Forest received a Valentine gift of two feet of fluffy white snow. Steve and Carmen braved the late winter nor’easter to spend a romantic weekend in our secluded treehouse. But first they had to get to us.
The young couple moved to Vermont from Austin, Texas, two years ago, so what did they know about driving in snow? Living in Burlington, they leave their car parked most of the time. Steve commutes by bus to Montpelier, where he works at the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and Carmen walks to the University of Vermont to teach math education.  
            H usually plows the driveway with his aging pickup but because of the ferocity of the storm, he hired a local guy who knows the nuances of plowing. Well and good. But it’s impossible to scrape down to gravel even with the best plow.
            Three years ago Fern Forest got so much snow that even the local guy couldn’t handle it. For a few days we were held captive except for a path H was able to clear with the snow blower. A bulldozer arrived just before we ran out of milk—and beer. I remember that spectacularly sunny day when I looked down the driveway at the growling machine and felt like the captive maiden when the Mounties come to the rescue.
            The hero for our Texans on Friday afternoon was a member of the Lincoln road crew. Steve had tried to get up the last steep hill on Quaker Street before our driveway when his wheels started spinning. He backed down and slid into a snow bank. With no cell phone reception, he wasn’t able to call for help. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and the road crew guy had been out plowing Lincoln’s roads since one in the morning, but he paused to pull Steve and Carmen out of the snow. Then he tipped his hat and went home for a nap.  
            But there was still the hill to negotiate. While Steve was contemplating his options, Quaker Street neighbor Nathan Reynolds stopped, attached a tow rope to his pickup, and pulled the Texans all the way up our long, steep driveway. Then, as Good Samaritans do, he vanished without accepting as much as a cup of hot cocoa.
            For his bride of two years, Steve had ordered a dozen pink Valentine roses from a florist in nearby Bristol. No problem for the florist, who rumbled up the driveway in his four-wheel-drive SUV to deliver a vase of the fragrant beauties an hour before our guests arrived. H perched them on the desk in the cozy treehouse to surprise Carmen.
The snow fell all evening, and Steve and Carmen came in to sit with us by the wood stove, nibble cheese and chat. We discovered that they met in a flash mob group. Flash mobs are dramatic groups—sometimes dancing, sometimes acting—and perform in public places to the surprise and delight of impromptu audiences. Their mobs have flashed in Austin’s Whole Foods, the Ikea store, and shopping malls. In fact, Carmen and Steve enjoy flash mobbing so much that they choreographed two-thirds of their wedding guests in a flash drama during the reception.
There are no mobs in Fern Forest to flash, so the Texans retired early and watched the snow swirl out the treehouse windows. The stars at night may be big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, but there were no stars that Valentine’s weekend. Luckily the snow was bright reflecting in the solar light of the lamps along the path to the treehouse. That and the quiet peacefulness of a blanket of fresh white was enough to generate all the romance they needed.

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