Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

Today in Notl:  Cold with a high of 22F/-5C.  The blizzard passed us by, we are expecting about 2 inches/5 cm in all.  Lucked out!

I'm mindful, as I look at the weather today, of how bad it could have been.  Years ago, I went to New Jersey to live with a community of sisters so that I could discern whether their life was for me.  The convent was situated midway up a wooded mountain, while at the foot was the printery where we worked to support the convent and the shrine's mission.  We were located in NW New Jersey, and the winters were ROUGH, particularly for this Southern lass. 

One day, the snow began coming down and there were blizzard warnings, so the office shut down early.  Two of the nuns remained to close things down with the business manager and I set off on foot back to the convent.

It was perhaps a ten or fifteen-minute walk on a snow-free day, but it was cold so I took the shortcut across a large open field, admiring the view of the shrine and convent.  I made good time at first, but it wasn't long before the snow really began to pick up, increasing dramatically very quickly.

Suddenly, I was enveloped in white.  Being a voracious reader, I had read of blizzards and tales of hapless travelers caught in snows so heavy they couldn't pick their way across their own back yard to the safety of their homes.  I'd read of snows so thick that those out in it couldn't see their hands in front of their faces, and I thought that was a figurative expression intended to mean 'really thick snow.'

Now, however, I realized what all that meant.  As the snow fell around me, it felt as though the very air around me was opaque, as though I were wrapped in cotton batting.  Instantly I lost all sense of direction, not knowing where the convent was, where the office was, where *I* was in the field. 

My feet were like lead; unfamiliar with that amount of snow, I was lifting my feet to clear the snow, carrying a mound of heavy wet snow atop each boot.  Looking down, I couldn't make out my dark boots, though I could feel the snow as it topped them and slid down inside, wetting my already cold feet.  I lifted my hand to see, and indeed, it was as I had read:  I couldn't make out my hand at the end of my arm stretched before me.

I prayed as hard as I had in my life. I knew that the convent was situated in a clearing and that behind it were wooded trails and that the mountain was heavily wooded only a bit beyond the field.  Of course, the nuns knew where I was, so that was comfort.  If I came to trees, I reasoned, I'd try a different direction till I came back to the open. 

Sure enough, I came to trees.  Had I reached the heaviest wooded area up mountain?  I turned and encountered more trees.  I tried again and found open ground so stumbled along.

I say stumbled because I was exhausted.  I was breathing hard from the exertion of lifting so much snow with each step as well as from the effort not to panic.  However, having reached an open spot, I felt that if I continued walking along the open edge, it would lead me to a building - the deserted shrine, the outdoor chapel, the office, or the convent.  At that point, I didn't care which it was; any would offer welcome shelter. 

Finally I encountered short growth - a hedge.  That meant I was near the convent.  Hedges ran along the road up the mountain and lined both the drive to the garage as well as the garage to the visitor parking lot.  If I headed back to the woods, the hedge would guide me back in the other direction toward the convent.  I was hugely relieved!

Stumbling along and sometimes within the hedge, I found my way to the garage, but my knocks and calls got no answer.  No matter, though.  By walking close beside the building, I found my way to the front door and opened it to glad cries.

Instantly I was surrounded by my worried sisters, who took off my coat, scarf, hat and gloves.  They wiped the ice from my lashes and brows, sat me down and removed my shoes.  One flew to my room to get my slippers, another found a towel to dry my cold wet feet, another pressed a cup of hot tea into my hand.

Looking up, I saw that several of them were heavily bundled themselves.  Worrying for my safety, they had determined to search for me themselves. I had been gone over an hour.

When the snow had begun to pick up, the nuns decided to return to the convent.  They'd scanned the mountain but couldn't see me through the snow and surmised I'd already reached the convent. When they got there and realized I hadn't made back, their surprise had turned to concern and then fear as the minutes ticked by. 

As it turned out, that hedge saved me from heading into the wooded gardens behind the convent.  One of the sisters, a Minnesota gal, observed my footprints filling quickly in the snowfall.  Had I not found that hedge and followed it, she told me soberly, I could have been lost for many hours in the acres of woodland gardens. She didn't have to say anything more.  I knew I'd had a fairly close call. 

So as we watch tv and see the reports coming in from around the country, I remember my one-and-only blizzard experience and sip my coffee gratefully. 

Art today is a few of the pendants going to a jewellery party this weekend.  If you are in the GTA or within an hour or two of Niagara and would like to host one of Deb's parties, let us know!

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