Here it comes. Here comes the heat. Its return has me looking back to last November, when, in this space, I painted a picture of what most of us were doing just then in these northern climes: We were cleaning up the after the summer, that messy Mardi Gras blowout with all its glittery litter. I meant the berries and leaves and nuts all cast around on the ground.
I meant the cat’s cradle of spiderwebs stretching everywhere about.
I meant the ivy that every year climbs so high on one side of my old house that before the frost gets it, it will have sent its bright-green gobliny fingers right in past the supposed barrier of the combination screen-and-storm windows, things expressly designed to keep the ‘outside’ out.
But the darn pricey windows didn’t do that in the growing season, and for sure they didn’t do it in the season of frost.This year there was no keeping the outside out. It snowed and snowed and snowed, in case you’ve forgotten. and on a thousand YouTube channels you could see videos of people’s crazy guy-friends in their underpants jumping from their second story porches into the 12-foot drifts below. You could see young women doing it too: donning their bathing suits to land shrieking in that cotton candy spin of utter cold.You could even see these people helping their dogs make the leap down into all that white, where, if they were small enough, they would literally disappear from sight for a couple of seconds before leaping back into view, happily yapping.
You couldn’t look at these videos and you couldn’t not look. They were funny in a horrible sort of way I guess and maybe we all needed the laugh by January’s end.
Four weeks later though, nobody was laughing. People with cars parked on the street couldn’t even find them for all the snow. And then there were the ice dams.
We all had them on our roofs, concrete-hard icebergs that just would not melt. You could climb up there and hack away at them with pickaxes, even sledgehammers, and still they would not yield.
They were there and they stayed there, until, little by little, they moved inside. This means that their moisture slowly ‘wicked’ right into and through all our walls with that same slow but steady determination I see each year with the ivy that climbs in my windows. The wood trim of all our interiors first bloated with moisture and then wept, sending blackish tears streaming clear down to the floor. Wall coverings grew what look like maps of unknown continents. Apparently the wall behind my own bed had grown so spongy by the beginning of March that one day the picture on it fell to the floor. Not realizing what had happened, I tried driving in a fresh nail to hold it. Alas it was like trying to nail something into a bowl of oatmeal.
I look back now at what I wrote last November about the great mess summer makes behind and I have to laugh. That mess was nothing compared to the mess this past winter has left us. So all I can say now is Thank Heaven there are such things as window cleaner, scrub brushes, and sheet rock. And also, God, thank you for giving the world contractors and handymen (and may some of them soon start returning our calls!)