THE VERMONT WINTER OF MY DISCONTENT
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- I don't mind admitting that this long Vermont winter has me whipped.
Looking out of the window, I can see more snow falling. The limbs of the trees surrounding our house, the ground, and even the rocks in our picturesque waterfall are all freshly blanketed with white. It's a Christmas card out there, a winter wonderland. But damn it, it's April.
Yes, it's April, springtime, and there's at least a foot of new ice and snow surrounding my house. That gorgeous waterfall? It long ago overran the banks of the brook and ate my driveway
From Halloween going on to Easter, this has been a six-month horror of a winter and there is no end yet in sight.
We actually had a thaw a little while ago. The four feet of old snow surrounding our house on the hill melted quickly. Daffodil shoots pushed their way up through the wet dark earth. Downtown, people ran around in their shirt sleeves buying seeds and gardening tools.
Our town's many frozen dirt roads melted and became mud soup. Driving down our hill became an amusement park ride without the amusement. My car careened from right rut to left rut, bounced so hard that I was never certain from one minute to the next whether I still had an undercarriage, while my tires spun and splattered flying mud
An anonymous poet in our town grew so mad that she or he posted this poem on either side of the sinkhole that used to be Park Laughton Road: "This road is impassable/Not even jackassable. If you care to travel/haul your own gravel."
The day after the poem was posted I watched the town's gravel truck sink up to its doors in that very same hole; then it tipped over like a sinking ship.
For all the hard work our highway department has done, our roads remain rutted and bumpy. But now they are frozen again. That deceptive thaw was followed by an April ice storm which turned the soft mud ruts as sharp as razors. The ice was followed by more snow.
But if you think I'm having a hard time, you probably don't want to talk to the bear.
The other day we woke to find bear tracks in the fresh show. Our garbage cans had been popped open and garbage was strewn everywhere. There was bear poop next to the cars, and Randy found three huge puncture marks in a discarded can of Pam.
For this we have no-one to blame but ourselves. Our house is tucked deep into in the woods, where deer regularly eat our garden and fisher cats eat our pets.
But we had not encountered a bear until last fall, when we unexpectedly found a black bear eating the carcass of a pre-roasted supermarket chicken in our driveway.
As if we were born yesterday, Randy and I were so excited that we stood in the open doorway taking pictures. The next day one of them appeared on the front page of the local paper.
Then I called the game warden and got an earful. Instead of shooting a segment of Joyce and Randy's Wild Kingdom, he said, we should have been banging on pots and waving our hands in the air and yelling and scaring away the bear. We should have defended our turf. Now the bear thinks we're his bitches. He thinks he owns us.
This might be a different bear, of course, but if you slept all winter, woke up hungry, went out to look for the first green shoots of Spring and got hit by an ice storm, wouldn't you be pissed off? Wouldn't you hit up the easiest garbage can you knew of?
Worst of all, the bear's tracks lead up the stairs to our deck. There's only a sliding glass door between the deck and the living room, and there's nothing between the living room and the bedroom but a door that our cat can open. Now I am sleeping with a pot, a metal spoon and my sneakers on.
Making this particularly long winter even more depressing is our inhumane and insane war in Iraq. If you want to see what our government is doing, go to www.dailykos.com/archives/002286.html#002286. There you will find a picture of a freshly orphaned 12-year-old Iraqi boy named Ali Ismail Abbas. He is a beautiful, dark-eyed, smiling boy, but he has no arms and burns all over his body. Our tax dollars at work.
"The innocent are bleeding and screaming with pain to bring us our exciting television pictures," writes British war correspondent Robert Fisk from Baghdad. Meanwhile, our president, George the Impaler, and his generals gloat in victory.
Yes, this is definitely the winter of my discontent, except that it is supposed to be Spring.
This winter has not only been impassable but totally jackassable. I've already passed through Seasonal Affectedness Disorder and spent an unhappy month in cabin fever. I've left even that temporary craziness and depression far behind me. We have got to get some sunlight, warmth, and a few flowering forsythias up here soon. Otherwise I don't know how much longer I can hold on.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.