Spring tease: Getting outside for the thaw

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 3/3/11]  

How would we make it through the winter without a good thaw?

It seems that every year, when the sky is at its grayest and the snow is at its deepest, Mother Nature hits the pause button and treats us to a day or two of springtime weather.

After the recent demoralizing Groundhog Day snowstorm — dubbed “SnOMG” by the local Twitter community — it looked like any chance for an early spring was buried deeper than the shopping carts on Church Street.

(It also looks like, as a nation, we need to stop placing our vernal hopes in the paws of a capricious and indifferent rodent.)

That storm was, of course, followed by another storm. And another. And, possibly, another. (I think. Honestly, I’ve lost track; this whole winter has just been a frigid blur of whiteness.)

Then, there was that pipe-busting, sub-zero cold snap, because, well, why not?

After all that, something had to give weather-wise — if only so we could shave off a foot or three from all the towering, immovable snow banks. The pile in the Rutland Plaza parking lot was about one truckload of snow away from installing a rope tow and rechristening it “Mt. WalMart.”

Our reprieve came recently when temps began creeping out of the negatives and continued to climb into the mid-50s. Having given up paying attention to the forecast out of despair sometime in early January, the thaw was a total surprise to me.

The first day caught me unprepared — by the time I got out of work, the sun was dipping below the horizon and I feared I had missed what might be the only respite of warm weather between now and Memorial Day (a conservative estimate).

Not so.

Later that week we were treated to another, even warmer, day. As I got out of my car downtown that morning I was struck not by a cold blast of winter, but by golden sunlight and a warm breeze.

Coffee in hand, I slowed down my usually brisk walk to work as I decided where I would go for a run that afternoon.

Since the snow has fallen, I have been confined running inside on a treadmill — the recreational equivalent of a hamster wheel. While the facilities at my gym are nice, I was thrilled for a chance to get back outside.

A thaw is like a reverse snow day, and in my opinion schools should be closed whenever the temperature gets above 50 degrees between January and March.

Fortunately, this particular thaw did have the good sense to occur during February break, which was a nice treat for the kids. On my run that afternoon, I saw a group of them bombing down Church Hill on Hillside Road, some wearing only T-shirts, their heavy winter coats discarded at the top of the hill.

The run itself was rewarding despite some unforeseen pitfalls. In my eagerness to get outside, I had neglected to remember that not all the snow had melted. The snow banks and ice were still there, now accompanied with puddles and, in some places, mud — combining to make the streets and sidewalks even more harrowing than they already are.

These were things I had not considered when I chose my route that included Woodstock Avenue and Stratton Road — at 3 p.m. My run quickly turned into race for my life as I leapt over deep puddles, skated across icy sidewalks and scaled hardened snow banks when cars got too close.

By the end of my quick 3-mile loop, my feet were soaked and my shoes were stained with dirty slush, but it was worth it.

As I headed home with the sunroof open, the winter chill slowly creeping back, I considered firing up the grill, calling some friends and continuing my springtime welcome party into the evening. The plan was abandoned , however, when I realized that, despite the thaw, the grill was still packed in some semi-deep snow.

I realize now that, perhaps, my enthusiasm was a bit premature. As I write this column, watching the most recent storm of the century of the week pile up outside my window, the thaw feels like a fleeting fantasy — as if it never happened at all.


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