Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snow, Here and There

Sitting under a warm, winter-white sky, enjoying the balminess of 28 degrees F (or -2C), I am carried back in time after reading a post by the Stephanie Pearl-McPhee: on snow in Seattle.

The climate in Southwestern France is very much like that of Seattle or London; rainy winters, springs and falls, and no snow. The only way to see snow is to head to the Pyrenees. Toulouse, my home for many years, is very much like Seattle, minus the sea and the mountains, but with better coffee and sunnier summers.

Well, one day it snowed. This melted my Midwestern heart, even if it was less than an inch and melting fast. Nevertheless, it was white, and scary for the entire population. It stopped everything; buses, businesses and school. Going to the university was out of the question, as my bus  was not running. A rather disappointing holiday, since we couldn't even have a decent snowball fight or go ice-skating, but the white was fun. A year later it snowed for real one evening, right around the time people were leaving work.

Catastrophe! A whole two or maybe three inches, total mayhem. We lived on the only hill in the entire city and the show was spectacular. My husband and I sat at the window of our apartment and laughed ourselves silly over a nice beer. People were abandoning their vehicles en masse after foolishly attempting to climb the hill. The tow trucks were noisily grinding and lifting and dragging cars away. The best part, however, was yet to come.

Hours later, the "salt truck" arrived, and I use the term loosely. It was the little city golf-cart sized thingy with three men on board. One driving and two diligently scooping salt they must have stolen from a restaurant somewhere.

The next day, as there was still snow and no traffic, we went for a long walk through the city. My French husband had the foresight to take along an umbrella, and it was very wet snow, so I was grateful for the odd but useful addition to our meager snow gear. We picked up an American friend and strolled through the empty Japanese garden, enjoying the bridge and the plants with a dusting of snow and watching the ducks huddled on their island on the almost-frozen pond. We took pictures of the three inches piled on the roof of our car to send home to the in-laws, incroyable! 

Our cat was the least happy of us three. We made several attempts to let him outside, what a French creature he was! He would put one paw into the cold stuff, turn and make a head-long dash back inside, meowing loudly in complaint. I wonder how he would have fared had he moved back here with us. I just can't picture him up to his armpits in snow. I'm pretty sure he would have taken up semi-hibernation the way some wild animals do.  Short of importing his own salt truck to strew his path with melting warmth, it would have been a case of taking the cat out of France, but not the French out of the cat.

One Midwestern girl glad for the snow, white skies and the promise of a little more before spring takes over.

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