For my mental health and general well-being, I am going to try and get through an entire piece without mentioning politics, DJT, Julian Assange, or any of the assorted political madness with which we are currently confronted. Okay, here we go-
The snow filled screensaver that is winter in Maryland has finally returned. Great white flakes floating to the ground, reminding me of Minnesota and California, which would be contradictory, except that I’ve lived in both states.
Folks here in Maryland are in the habit of running out and shoveling the snow away in stages, before it gets so thick that they’ve got a real job on their hands. Not like Minnesota, where Scandinavians enjoy the pain and suffering that comes with letting the snow pile up for two or three feet before going out in freezing temperatures to do some real heavy lifting, coming back in exhausted and covered with sweat, eyebrows frozen and their long-johns caked with ice where they poke out just above their felt-lined rubber survival boots reinforced with heated socks.
One winter years ago, after a really heavy Minnesota snow, my buddy Jim Sonstegard and I thought we’d make some serious money shoveling out driveways. Our first big take was cutting a deal to shovel out Johnny Bolstad’s house for five bucks. That was five dollars for both of us, not five dollars each. Johnny had done well for himself and it wasn’t because he threw money around carelessly. Anyway, this was in the 60’s. Gas was 28-cents a gallon, so five dollars would buy more than just a couple of trips to the twin cities.
The snow was probably five feet deep where it was blown up in a big drift against Johnny’s garage door and two to three feet deep all the way out to the street. It didn’t look all that bad until we were about one-third finished and it hit us that we had two-thirds still to go. I don’t remember how long it took us to clear the whole thing, just that at some point in the process we decided it would be our one and only job of the day. We might have been young but we weren’t stupid and we came to a mutual understanding about a need for cost-effectiveness, long before the term was in vogue. Anyway, my Swedish heritage and Jim’s Norwegian blood had suffered far enough to satisfy any need we had for earning our keep through frozen exhaustion.
The snow reminds me of California, because, after more than thirty years in the sun, I was, quite frankly, getting tired of nearly the same weather each and every day, month after month, year after year. “Another lousy day in paradise,” my friends in the tv business used to call it. There is some truth in that, as generally, the weather in Southern California is wonderful, until you get tired of it or the earth moves reminding you of the price you must pay for the near-normalcy of the almost non-stop Mediterranean climate. There are also periods of extreme heat that would fry a lizard, if lizards were stupid enough to crawl out from under their rocks, but that usually passes without too much damage being done.
Here in Maryland, things are more temperate. The winter, in fact, isn’t all that bad compared to Minnesota where it grabs you by the throat, threatening to kill you sometime in early or mid-December, and not letting go until April – if your luck holds out. In Maryland we get about half of that, with January snow hanging around until March. Not that bad really, more like a long winter vacation in Big Bear or Mammoth before winter makes way for spring, and everything turns green again.
Our friend Susan, has a farm over in Carroll County with a big house with a screened-in porch. That’s where we were sitting, eating lunch one day this summer when I took a look around at the scenery all bathed in green, the trees, the fields, the birds and her horses crossing a pasture single file and proclaimed, “I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.” “That’s what Jack used to say!” Susan responded, referring to her late husband. The place is just that beautiful, throughout the year.
It’s like living in a painting, or maybe a screensaver, with gently falling snow. A screensaver that changes with the seasons, making Maryland one of the most underrated states in the Union. A perfect balance between the torrential rains of the south and the bitter Minnesota-like winters of New England.
Please don’t tell anybody. If word about how great this place is gets around I’ll have to move again, and I’m running out of places to go. Right now I have to run outside and shovel out the driveway while it’s still in stage one. Doesn’t bother me a bit though. A little suffering is good for the soul, and compared to Minnesota, this is a piece of cake.