seeds on the sleet
Wednesday, January 28 2009
Snow had fallen last night and had left over an inch on the ground, but this could be no impediment to Gretchen, who had a full day of work ahead of her starting before eight in the morning. There was not enough snow yet to impede her travel, but the snow kept falling all day and I would have to do some shoveling if she was to get back into our driveway.
At around four in the afternoon it was still precipitating, but the snow had turned to sleet and was hitting objects with sharp clicking sounds. When the tiny pellets hit the snow, they left craters about a quarter inch across. After awhile the surface of the snow was entirely comprised of sleet and the little balls of ice bounced around randomly on its surface like the aftermath of an earthquake at a ball bearing factory. All the random motion tended to bring less-dense material to the surface, which would then gradually work its way to the bottoms of any depression. In snow, such depressions can be the trench of an old footpath or a hollow between two snowed-under weeds. The loose non-snow material that had worked its way to the surface and traced the nadirs of the depressions looked like flecks of black upon the snow. I looked at one such fleck carefully and saw it was actrually brown and featured a tail. I was pretty sure it must have been a seed from the cone of a White Pine tree. It was like the helicopter-seed of a White Ash (which resembles a bilaterally-symetrical maple seed), but, at only an eighth of an inch in its greatest dimension, only a tenth as long.
Taking advantage of the change in precipitation, which seemed to herald its end, I began shoveling out the driveway. It was good that I did when I did, because eventually the sleet changed to freezing rain, massively increasing the weight of what needed to be removed. (When this freezing rain fell on the shoveled parts of the driveway, it actually seemed to encourage the melting of whatever was there, indicating it carried with it a not-inconsiderable amount of ice-melting heat.)
When Gretchen eventually returned at around eight in the evening, she had no trouble making it up Dug Hill Road. Her work today had been in the prisons way down near Ellenville, and she'd carpooled, leaving her car parked in downtown Hurley. Usually when we catch rides to the prisons, we leave our cars in the relatively-large parking lot of the Hurley Mountain Inn, but this morning only the Stewarts' parking lot had been plowed. (Stewarts is a regional convenience store/gas station franchise that only seems to hire white people, in contrast with the other such places, which are uniformly Subcontinental-Indian-operated.) When she'd made it back to her car at the end of the day, Gretchen had found an angry Stewarts' manager standing there to tell her that the sheriff and a tow truck had both been called. This manager claimed Gretchen was parked in a handicapped spot and then seemed to think Gretchen would wait around for the cop to arrive. Suffice it to say that she did not. As for the sheriff, in such weather conditions it seemed unlikely that a parking violation at a small town convenience store would get assigned much priority in the necessary triage.
Meanwhile I'd made chili but had forgotten to add the tomato component. It was a good day for the eating of chili, particularly while watching the latest episode of American Idol.
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