by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
January 18, 2007
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SIGHT IN THE WORLD
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- At least the goldfinches are happy.
Our house is tucked into the side of a hill. We have our bird feeders in the back, swinging on a line we rigged between the kitchen and a nearby tree. Usually we see only a few finches and chickadees at a time because there aren't many places for them to perch.
That was before the ice storm on Monday night.
Now there must be 18 goldfinches out there, perching on the branches of an ice-covered tree that fell onto our roof during the night. The birds are fighting beak to beak to get a shot at the feeders. The chickadees are out there, too, in force, chickadee-dee-deeing away. I don't have the heart to tell them that when the feeders are empty, there's no way we can get out there, free the frozen line, reel it in and put out more seed.
The ice storm made me understand about tinsel. I've always loved it on Christmas trees, of course, but before Monday night, in my experience, icicles only hung from the eaves of houses. Now I get it. Every tiny branch of every tree surrounding our house is encased in ice. When I walk out the front door, I brush under the branches of a tree that's bowed down in front and make a tinkling noise.
This scene might be the most beautiful sight in the world - what with the light sparkling through a multitude of ice crystals and refracting into wondrous new colors like orange, purple, chartreuse, turquoise, hey, I get Christmas lights too, now - if it wasn't for the fact that under that tinkling tree, and also under the three trees down right next to it, sits my car.
Snow may be difficult, but at least you can move it. Ice? You can't do a damned thing except chip it away. In a measure of how bizarre this winter has been, trees in our driveway have been ripped out of the ground by the roots because the soil is so soggy. And my tall, beautiful 30-year-old lilac tree, the one that's now weighted down to the ground with ice? It has buds on it.
We noticed the three trees down in the driveway only an hour before Randy had to go to work on Monday. The only tools we had were a rusty pruning saw and a splitting maul.
Randy chopped, or mauled. I sawed. Then he chopped and mauled some more. Then I sawed again. While we were chopping and sawing and mauling and chopping, trees were falling all around us, branches were dropping and icicles were skittering down the mountainside. At times it sounded like an avalanche of glass.
We finally cracked through the trunks of two trees and hauled them off to the side. I broke off enough branches of the third tree to allow Randy's car to move. How he managed to do a full evening's work after all that, I'll never know.
I was left alone in the house. Especially after it got dark, I became afraid. I'm not a fearful person, but the slamming of trees to the ground made it seem as if I was in a war zone and the house was being bombed. I had an instinct to duck. One large tree branch crashed into the deck with a particularly loud and satisfying noise - it even disturbed the cat, who usually spends her evenings lying melted in a shiny black puddle of happiness by the wood stove.
Our small house is graced with many windows. Of special note is the big picture window in the living room, designed to catch the Eastern light. I found myself looking at it with a wary eye. What if a tree crashed through it? Given what was going on around me, it was a reasonable fear. What would I do? Blankets and a staple gun? Would that help? Would I have to chip the ice off my couches in the morning? Would my houseplants be frostbitten? Would I? Would I wake up to find birds flying through the living room on their way to the back feeders?
Luckily, the windows held through the night.
I woke up to find that we were living in a winter wonderland. Trees encased in ice were lying on the ground all over the place. The ones still standing were bowed over low like shiny weeping willows. And then it started snowing.
To rescue my car, I had to break hundreds of branches. Crack. Crack. Soon it sounded as if I were walking on crystal. Like someone went berserk in Tiffany's. Or like the bride caught the groom in the arms of the matron of honor and took out her fury on a million punch bowls.
I finally cracked enough branches - each had buds encased in ice, I noticed - to reach my car. With a hiking boot I banged around the door and freed it from its half-inch casing of ice. I turned it on, put the heater on high, and contributed more of my share to global climate change.
I may have felt trapped and surrounded but I also felt blessed. No one in Windham County died from the storm. At least at our house, the power stayed on. The phone lines didn't fall. Randy made it home safely. The roof took some hits but it appears intact. Our shoulders are sore, but we're OK. It's good to have a reminder, in this strang warm winter, how fierce nature can be.
And as I said, the goldfinches are having a ball.
Write AR Correspondent Joyce Marcel at firstname.lastname@example.org.