Failures in Communication in Vermont

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 10.22.40 AMLiving and working in the rolling mountains of Vermont is a bucolic pleasure. Especially this time of year when the foliage is approaching full autumnal splendor. But the hills and hollows wreak a special havoc on cell phone communication. I work as a Literacy Coach in six schools, in a district that covers a cool 460 square miles. As I am rarely at my home desk, email or my cell phone are the best way to reach me…well, sort of.  Yesterday, a reading specialist from a school not so far away as a crow flies, but a meandering journey over hill and dale by car, asked to connect via phone. In the room at the school where I was scheduled and have a “visiting” office, I have sometimes received messages on my phone, so I thought I was set. The time my colleague said she would call passed. Then a message popped up. I tried to return the call. It dropped. She called back as I was walking through the hall to find better reception. Awkward, as the staff meeting had just focused on cell phone use…for students, but still, we need to model the good behavior we expect. I had to ask the secretary for a district phone book, a lovely lady who was busier than usual as it was picture day and she was flying solo. I remade the call from the staffroom landline and it went to voicemail. I emailed to see if we might try a Google Hangout-but my colleague’s little school has a cranky internet connection. It was in a mood already today.

Holy Smokes!  I am thinking smoke signals, carved stone tablets floated across rivers (Remember the comic BC?), the pony express….even good old snail mail might be more efficient.

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I do remember when I moved here from the West Coast, I felt like I had moved to Mayberry (as in the fictitious TV town set in a time when things were kinder, simpler, quieter, and slower). Experiences like this reaffirm that I have.  And it is ok with me.

Unexpected Snowfall

For a snow lover like me, it has been the winter of discontent. I grew up in western Oregon, where snow is rare and fleeting. In Oregon, winter is a 9 month mud-season, a long yawn of wet and grey. I delighted in moving to the land of snow. I bought mittens and snowshoes. I learned about roof rakes and ergonomic snow shovels. For my first five winters here, Vermont has delivered: Currier and Ives  Christmasses and a steady succession of light fluffy snowfalls through March, and sometimes beyond. Transformative magic to keep the winter drearies away. But not this winter.

Oh it’s been cold enough. Cold enough to flash-freeze coffee left in my cup after my morning commute. Cold enough to freeze and refreeze the line to our dishwasher for days at a time. Cold enough-until moisture arrives. Then weeks of unrelenting deep-freeze break just in time to ensure the precipitation falls as rain, or worse, ice.

This winter it’s like we planned the party, sent out invitations, set the table, even received confirmation of attendance, but snow has been like an unreliable guest, arriving late, leaving early, coming ill-dressed, or been a complete no-show. Lingering roadside drifts are as tired and unappealing as picked-over hors d’oeuvres left on the tray after guests have gone home.

Each morning, I scan the ten day forecast on my screen for the freshly added date.  Will it have a snowflake?  But amongst the occasional icons of clouds, rarely a snowflake appears. When one does it only teases,  revealing on arrival to be rain dressed in snow’s clothing.

Vermont weather is fickle. The turn and rise of a road, the breadth of a mountain, the proximity to a river, each and every hollow creates its own unique climate. To snow, or not to snow? My morning commute winds through several of these micro-climates. One village, one hill and valley to the next varies in snowfall by extraordinary degrees. My hollow has been the the itch that can’t get scratched. The snow falls south, or north, a bit east or west. The little we’ve had has snuck in by night, been washed by rain by day, or coated with ice.

A couple of days ago, another Judas snowflake appeared on my desktop. It showed early promise, but by last night, there were conflicting reports, diminishing chances. “An All-Day Event” the newscaster predicted….to the south. Fickle. I went to bed resigned.

This morning, I awoke to a snowy world. Fat, steady, luxurious flakes. The trees and roads are blanketed as far as the eye can see. Almost February, our first true snowfall of the season. Scarcity teaches you to savor things in a way you don’t when they are common. So I breathe in this snowfall: the hush, the graceful lines it forms on the branches, the way it has covered the gritty remains of this unreliable winter with a pristine blanket.

An unexpected gift.                                                                                        Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 10.36.21 AM