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Schubart: Weather Or Age

Sometimes it seems like the only question I’ve been asking myself recently, besides “how cold is it this morning?” is whether I’m just getting old or whether the world is indeed changing around me.

Take for example the weather. We all agree it’s been a long, miserable winter. I’ve lived here since just after peace was declared in Europe and grew up far from the “lake effect” we enjoy in Hinesburg. I remember snow up to the bottom of our first-story windows and occasional temperatures in the 30+ below zero range. It seemed fun then except for the dreaded shoveling we had to do after school. My father said the driveway between Washington Highway and our one-car garage was too small to plow. How could that be?

We live on a hill and I suspect our “double-black diamond” driveway was designed by the same madman who designed Stowe’s legendary “Nosedive trail.” With all-wheel drive and spiked tires, each of which cost more than my first car, we can make it up after a modest snowfall. Schussing down, however, in a Volvo station wagon is still terrifying – I should install a defibrillator on the dash board.

This winter wasn’t particularly noteworthy for record snowfalls or temperatures but it could set new records for length. The occasional disappearance of mercury in my thermometer or a three-foot snowfall is manageable and I can even survive the few bleak hours of daylight we get in January after a hearty lunch of - say - St John’s wort salad and a large bowl of bourbon soup.

This spring my wife became convinced I was suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder when I spent two afternoons shoveling all the snow off our lawn. I could see her in the window looking worried. I calmed her by assuring her that I wasn’t going to shovel our other eight acres. But I am going to shovel the snow out of the chicken’s yard so I can let the chickens out to forage on the ice. Earlier in March, I shoveled off the deck, thinking spring was nigh. The next day we got 20 inches of new snow.

We’ve been out of firewood since early March – five cords up the chimney. The few logs curing outdoors for next year that I’ve brought in and tried to light sound like a nest of angry cobras in the cold woodstove. The good news is that our chickens have begun laying again, eggs apparently no longer kill you, and the spikehorn buck that crossed the middle of our pond all winter never fell through the ice.

On a wholly different note, I scold my tacky friends who winter in Florida to evade the taxes that support our Vermont communities. But I have been giving some thought this winter to visiting them next February to confront them on their selfish behavior. So I ask you, is winter getting worse or am I just getting old?