January 11, 2009 by Ellen Stimson in Vermont. New England, Wintertime

The first year we moved up here these deep snows scared me. I wondered how would we ever manage to shovel it all, (We wouldn’t) How would we get out? (We didn’t need to) How would the dogs manage? (Just fine) What if we ran out of heating oil? (We’d call the oil guys) And how would we manage? ( LIke everyone else)

These were the questions and the fears that swirled around inside my brain. I remember opening the door to let the dogs out after the first really deep snow and realizing that little Stuart couldn’t go out until somebody made him a path. The marble steps were all snowed under and the drifts were leaning about three feet up the sides of the doors. I shut the door and walked back into the kitchen and stared out the window and cried. I wasn’t ready. What had we done? What had I been thinking?

Now finally six winters later I have begun to adjust. I understand that the old city brain that felt the need to shovel and salt, sweep and rearrange has faded away. I have no need to order this snow anymore. It isn’t mine to control. There are plow guys who make a swath for the car, and we shovel off the steps, kind of and mostly, just like everybody else. There are no neat glistening sidewalks surrounded by new snow. Everything here lives contentedly under a blanket of white for a few months every year. Stuart that little Carin Terrier is 12 now. John makes a path for him until the plow guys come. Pippi the other little dog tramps happily behind Eloise the Bernese Mountain Dog who makes everybody a path. We keep stores of milk and butter, flour and sugar. We have eggs out in the hen house and we can always make do if the big snow comes just as grocery day was approaching. The grocers never get those storm runs up here where everybody empties the shelves. We all make do. Sometimes the plow guys are late like today, when there were some 14 or 15 inches of new snow dropped, they have a lot of work today and since it’s Sunday nobody is going anywhere anyway. There was already a couple of feet out there and now it is closer to three. When these really big ones hit on weekdays nobody goes anywhere either. Businesses close. So do schools and even the Post Office. Once the banks closed. But if you need them, really really badly, you just call Patty at home. Everyone has her number. She’ll come in and get you what you need.

What I have learned in six winters is this…..

The world does not need me to run it.
It runs along quite well without my shoveling, or cleaning up whatever it creates. Better in fact.

And slower is better.
Running around to try and get everything done by some magical imposed deadline accomplishes nothing more than doing it at a saner pace would have. In fact it accomplishes less. I look and feel frazzled, not competent and busy like I always imagined I did. The lady with the long johns, flannel and fleece, over a billowing purple skirt, who fixes her coffee before she tackles the windshield to get to her client meeting, is calmer and gentler and inspires more confidence than the one who used to arrive on time, huffing and puffing and breezing into the room is inappropriate shoes with cold feet. Nobody was ever there to greet her anyway, because her clients are all New Englanders now. There were home fixing their coffee, and getting on their heavy boots. They’ll be along in a few minutes, having had a full breakfast, with clean windows and warm feet. By late morning or early afternoon at the latest most of them will be on the slopes getting in a few runs while the new powder holds.

The city lady used to look at them and sees unprofessional people living in vacation land with no sense of urgency.
They looked back at the city lady and wondered why she was so nervous and how long it would be til she went back.

Now she sees people who understand time. There is always more of it and when there isn’t they will know they used up their last measure of it on a woodsy walk with their dog or next to a cute little kid in a pink snowsuit up on the mountain. They have warm feet and they know there is always time for a cup of coffee before taking to a snowy road.
Now they see a woman who still wears those silly gypsy skirts, but she has on good Canadian boots and she isn’t in such a hurry anymore. She brings her dog with her in the front seat and they feed her pieces of their biscuit under the table at meetings. Maybe she’ll stay after all they think.

And even the deer will come up close to the house for their kibble now. They can’t find it in the meadow and even the dogs have finally stopped barking at them. I think we have adjusted…..


  • Kate

    I love this pace of life. I finally feel some of it in my own and I hear you. I hear what you are saying. It’s just like people who come in new to AA. They’re nervous and want all the answers RIGHT NOW. We just tell them to relax and take it easy – which used to infuriate me as a newcomer as well. Today, it’s all about the laughter and the coffee and the sparkles in the eyes. That’s when you know you’ve arrived.

  • Jamie

    We certainly don’t have three feet on the ground…maybe three inches–but it’s awesome. I love a good snow. I wish we would have gotten 15 inches, too. Happy Sunday. I plan on spending mine lazily…

  • Anonymous

    “I have no need to order this snow anymore.”
    Ordering the world when you think of it is ridiculous. Why do we think we should even try to do it? The world cheerfully and delightfully resists.
    Take it easy says Kate. Okay.
    Settle down…..C

  • Katiedid

    Are Canadian boots really better?
    Do you really wear gypsy skirts in the snow?
    Or is this a little literary license?

  • laurwilk

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • laurwilk

    A Bernese Mountain Dog? Oh, one day I will get to have a beautiful, big dog! I hope.

    I look forward to having that slow pace of life again. I have always settled into it so naturally. But now, I feel as if it is something you have to earn. And I look forward to years worth of growth, experience, and relationships – and then finally settling down and slowing down once again.

    I am so excited that VT has so much snow. I am off to Killington for a ski filled weekend on Friday! I’m hoping for more snow and less ice.

  • starrlife

    There is an artist, Michael Jurogue Johnson who, creates gorgeous paintings and he has a special thing for Bernese mountain dogs from what I remember. I strongly suggest Checking him out! Sounds like you are so happy and settled in! Vermont is the healthiest place in the nation dontcha know! 🙂

  • library lady

    We still don’t have any snow–just cold and threats of freezing snain. But there is nothing I like more than sitting in my recliner by the sliding glass doors, all wrapped up in an afghan with one or more of my cats on my lap, watching snow fall on a work day that’s been called off. It hasn’t happened yet, so here I sit at my computer in my depressing little cube on a dark cold Monday. There is no justice.

  • Bia

    I think I like the lady with the long johns and the gypsy skirt…she sounds like she knows how to enjoy life.

  • Angela

    I am new to the whole snow thing…you make it sound lovely. How long does it take to get to that point?

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    Another great post and even better life philosophy! I can’t even imagine the transition from city folk to cozy New Englander. I mean, it sounds gerat, but talk about two different lives!It must have been tough. Do you still catch yourself reverting to any old city ways?

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