It's winter. Full force winter. Feet of snow (2 and then it blew and now it's snowing again). Icey roadways. Blizzard winds. Bare naked wind chill. Winter in Montana. Like it hasn't been in the past 20 years. I like it.
And it's completely wearing me out. We're down to one vehicle that can (sometimes) drive in these conditions. My car is long buried. Our big old truck won't even make a spark. Our snow shovels are worn out. Hinges on doors are breaking because they're cold or they have freezing rain stuck to them or they're just old. There's ice in all the windows and puddles on all the floors. Little Bear's sweet little faced is chapped and cracked. My hands are chapped and cracked. The wind keeps trying to rip our front screen door off so I've tied it on with some parachute cord and looped the cord around the inside of the door knob. Our steps are buried and caked in ice. The drifts on our back deck are hip deep. Time to shovel more.
With the winter weather came slick roads. And with slick roads came the usual side off's, whoop-tee-do's and oopsie's. And, about a week ago, a terrible crash that has, so far, claimed 2 lives. I responded to the crash with the fire department. It was hard to see and has been somewhat daunting to deal with afterward. Not nearly so hard, though, as the families of those who lost their lives. I cannot imagine . . .
Another thing that snow and wind bring to the mountains and hills of western Montana is avalanches. Today an avalanche swept down Mount Jumbo on the outskirts of Missoula. It blew right into a neighborhood and destroyed 2 houses. 3 people were buried. Neighbors grabbed their shovels and ran, on foot, to the scene and frantically searched and dug through the snow, broken trees, pieces of ruined house, desperately searching for those under the snow in the darkening evening and quickly falling wind chill. It took several hours but eventually, all 3 people were recovered. So far, the news on their conditions is positive. I hope it stays that way.
Things have a way of getting kind of off kilter during extreme weather. An example of that is the thousand or so (ok, maybe hundred) starlings that think the "free" food in our chicken house is theirs. When I go out to care for our cold puffed up hens, I open the door to the coop and what follows is akin to a scene from a horror flick. Birds and flapping and beaks and squawking and screeching and feather and dust everywhere wings beating starling bodies thumping against my chest, my face, the wall in crazy desperation to get out. The chickens, cowering in corners, nowhere to go but into the freezing blowing snow outside. I've tried to block up all the places I think the starlings are getting in. Obviously I've missed some. The entire inside of the chicken coop is now painted in a thick fresh coat of starling shit. While it does lend an interesting texture to the place, it makes every surface slippery so when I tried to lean a ladder up to work on plugging more holes, it was like trying to climb slime. I eventually gave up, and with frozen and bleeding fingers, told the chickens I was sorry and went inside to thaw.
As I'm sitting here trying to come down off the wall this evening (middle of the night now), I hear that another Search and Rescue team has been called out. I don't know if they're calling in help to locate lost skiers at Snowbowl or if there is somebody else in peril.
I'm lucky. My house is warm. My bed is soft. My family is here. We are safe. Yes, the door is tied shut against the freezing wind. But we are together, not in a tree well or snow cave. I love winter. Real winter is exhilarating. And tonight, I've had quite enough, thank you. I want a day or two just to be normal. To have normal, not traumatic, non stressful things happen. I want to feed Ginger and watch her play and scamper happily up and down the hall. I want to bundle up warm and roll around in piles of snow with Little Bear. I want to sit on the couch next to my sweet wife and sip coffee together. But first, I want to sleep.