Freezing Rain

It’s coming down in sheets, pinging lightly off the windows, coating the ground, the sides of the house with a glimmering sheen of frozen water. The tree branches aren’t limned with silver yet, but if this keeps up, they will be, shining through the murky gray light of a Southeastern Pennsylvania winter. At night the street lamps reflect off of the rounded bellies of frozen droplets, bedecking the world with natural holiday lighting.

For all it’s pretty to look at from the safety of a warm house, this phenomenon is my least favorite part of the season in this part of the world. I wasn’t looking forward to it in the slightest and hoped even that we’d just get a lot of fluffy snow. Wishful thinking of course. Growing up it sometimes seemed that it was the bane of the area. Just a few miles west and it would be snow, but the relative temperature of ground and atmosphere right around Philly always seemed to conspire to bring a lot of freezing rain instead of the longed-for snow.

When I was in college in Western Massachusetts, snow was more common than the freezing rain, bringing the sorts of winters I’d often hoped for when I was in middle school. Not that there weren’t nasty ice storms up in Northampton too, but the campus was coated in a festive blanket of snow from late November or early December onward and buried in the stuff all through January, only easing up and starting to melt towards the middle or end of February. I spent one Jan Term on campus, enjoying the quiet of it all, a welcome sense of solitude when curling up in my room with a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa. It’s how winter ‘should be’ in my mind if you have to have a winter with ‘weather’.

In California, I got used to not really having winter at all. It rains in the winter in the Bay Area, but it doesn’t really freeze. Snow is rare and ice almost unheard of except on the tops of the highest hills, Mount Diablo or Mount Tamalpais on the coldest days. It always felt like an extension of autumn or spring rather than winter when we lived there. The weather never really forced us completely indoors the way it does here. I’d forgotten about that, how the weather pushes everyone inside in winter in a modified form of hibernation.

We’ve been so unready for this weather. We’re still so unready for it. If it really comes down, we have no sand, no salt, no shovel even to dig out with. Our landlord came by after the last snow with a floor model snow blower from their shop and cleared off our paths and steps which is really nice, but I worry that if we get a real storm we could be in a little trouble for a day or two and wind up sequestered. Still, I keep hoping for that snow, for fluffy white drifts to make the season bright instead of so dismally gloomy.

Holidailies 2007