W. Tate Brannan
Growing up in North Carolina I enjoyed the distinct seasons. There was no wondering about when you were in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. My Winter experiences were rather mild by comparison to the Vermont Winters I now have to endure. In Concord, where I grew up, it might register in the low 20’s. On average the temperature was in the 30’s and low 40’s. For a southern boy that was cold. We almost never had snow, yet we had an allotted number of snow days for school. Now that I think about it, it doesn’t make sense to have snow days in the south. The only exception would be if you lived up in the mountains. When I finally found a girl that would foolishly commit the rest of her life to be in wedded matrimony with me, I married her and within a year moved to Vermont. She was from Vermont and it was agreed that we would move closer to her family. I had no idea what that would entail. I didn’t take long to figure out that Summer only lasted a couple of weeks. The Fall season, which Vermont is well known for; lasts for a couple of months. Then comes Winter, which lasts about six months. Rather than Spring, Vermont has “mud season”. It is appropriately named because it’s during this season that between the melting snow and the seasonal rain; the roads are muddy and have deep ruts in them. It may be late May before everything begins to dry out. Please don’t mistake my account of the seasons of Vermont. It is a beautiful state and one would be cheated if they didn’t make at least one visit to enjoy what Vermont has to offer.
My first winter in the “green mountain state” consisted of two feet of snow, and sub-zero temperatures. I remember one day I committed myself to stand outside of a hardware store and sell m&m’s to raise money for the church youth group. I didn’t have to worry about the little colored candy melting that day. It was -30 degrees and I was beginning to wonder if I should have myself committed for standing outside in such retched weather. I felt my frozen beard only to find that some of the hairs had broken off in my hand. It was that day that I came to a new realization of what cold was and determined I would have to find a way to deal with these Vermont winters.
My plan consisted of strategy’s driven by a philosophy of co-existence with the bone chilling weather. My first strategy regarding the weather was, “I t can get as cold as it wants, as long as I can get warm when I want to.” This meant that winter shelter had to be within reach on command. Secondly, I would have to think about my wardrobe. I needed appropriate winter clothing. This meant winter underwear, long sleave sweaters and sweatshirts and of course a winter parka that would be a sufficient barrier to the cold. I would also need boots that were designed to live in the snow and cold weather. A change in clothing impacted my Sunday attire dramatically. In the south I would wear a suit and tie to church. In Vermont I began wearing jeans and fleece lined, long sleave winter shirts. You might have thought I was heading out to the woods to gather some firewood, rather than going to church. I remember a snow storm dumped a couple of feet of snow on a Saturday night. The next day I called the Pastor of the church and asked him if we were cancelling church. That drew some ridicule and people began to make note of my “thin blood”. He informed me that if we cancelled church every time, we had snow, we would never have church. My third strategy regarding the winter season was to embrace the season. I would have to find an activity that was snow friendly. I ultimately chose skiing. Some of the Northeast’s finest ski resorts are within 30 minutes of my home. Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch ski resorts are highly regarded in the alpine world. I had learned how to ski when I was in North Carolina at Sugar Mountain and though I wasn’t great, it was something that I could do. My next realization was that I would have to get a snowblower. It is no fun shoveling a driveway that boasts a couple feet of heavy, wet snow. Another important realization is the notion of the importance of heat. A smart home owner has at least two different sources of heat; just in case the power go’s out. Many homes are heated with oil, propane, natural gas, or electricity. Some homes are purely heated with wood. My home is heated with natural gas. However, if the power goes out, the electric motor that blows the hot air throughout my home is useless. That is why I have a generator as a backup power source. My back up heat is electric, powered by the generator. Too many times have I endured high winds or an ice storm that has relieved me of my electricity. Once we were without power for three days and my family and I spent that time huddled around a space heater that was powered by an extension cord attached to my neighbor’s generator. Now that I have lived in the north for 25 years. I have come to regard snow as a four-letter word. Snow means work. Clearing the driveway and the roof are not my favorite activities. To think that when I was a child I would pray for snow. God does answer prayer, just not always when we want Him to.
Yes, my blood is a little thin. I’d like to see some of my northern friends who pick on me; come down to North Carolina in July and see how they do in the hot summer weather. I’d bet they’d wish their blood wasn’t so thick. Yes, a southern boy can survive the cold winters of Vermont, but surviving isn’t the goal. Embracing it with the appropriate tools and gear is important. But what is most important is your attitude. Don’t let the weather get you down. Find a way that you can live well, regardless of the what mother nature is doing. If you liked my article please follow me at “lifeincontext.blog”; for more weekly articles to come.