Here we go again - another big winter storm is dropping half a foot or so of snow on us today and into tomorrow. To add to the difficulties of the situation, we are told there will be lots of wind tomorrow! That will be bad news again with tree branches already stressed under the weight of this heavy, wet snow.
I measured two inches on my deck this morning. The snow that collected in my measuring tube amounted to .42 in. of precipitation. We are certainly gaining on the drought conditions. When I was taking measurements this morning, the snow was coming down not in mere flakes, but in big gobs. (See photos.) At a temperature of 36F, it is not melting rapidly, and that will be a problem as it builds up on trees and utility lines, especially. Many of us could lose power later today or when the wind picks up tomorrow. My hope is that this is the last hurrah from Old Man Winter.
I know people are hoping to arrive at Joe's Pond soon now from their winter sanctuaries in southern climes, but now probably isn't the ideal time. I remember the days when our family "opened camp" each spring. We came only from St. Johnsbury, but often arrived in shorts and light tee-shirts, appropriate for the temperatures in St. Jay, but way too summery for Joe's Pond that early in the spring. Even so, we loved the sounds and the smells of the place. Often the pond still had ice and the kids were busy pushing it away from the dock and we had to caution them not to "test" the ice by trying to walk on it. It sometimes took a great deal of patience and a watchful eye to keep three rambunctious boys safe and still get work done.
Opening camp involved hitching up the water supply and then washing and cleaning literally everything. Our camp was more finished inside than some others, but far less so than the new homes that today have replaced so many of the original cottages. As soon as families left in the fall, small critters took up residence in the easily accessed cottages, so by spring there were flies, mice nests and droppings - and some totally unidentifiable messes to clean out. Drawers were emptied and the contents washed. Dishes were removed and washed and the cupboards and drawers thoroughly cleaned and lined with fresh shelf paper. Windows were washed and floors scrubbed. Cobwebs were swept down and spiders removed - for whatever reason, I felt compelled to capture and release them outside. They no doubt simply took up residence again, but I didn't like to kill them.
Everything smelled like "camp." The musty smell as we first opened the door, sometimes having to force it if the frost was still not quite out and the foundation was a bit askew. The inside of camp was always colder than the warm spring air outside, and we rushed to open windows to "dry things out." Outside there was the familiar smell of of warm earth, the sound of the ice crinkling and creaking as the wind shifted it in big, porous slabs, and ducks and geese calling loudly to announce open water over there! or no place to land here! We sometimes watched beavers swim down the brook as if they knew we had arrived and wanted to greet us. Or sometimes they would dive and slap their tails hard on the water as if to let us know we were intruding in their territory. In later years, we had one beaver that would playfully tease our black lab, "Clint" by swimming close to shore and then when Clint would jump into the water after the beaver, it dove and swan in circles just out of the dog's reach. We had to call Clint in because he would get so tired chasing the beaver we were concerned for him - and the water was so cold, it must have been uncomfortable for the dog. But he never gave up for long and would run along the shore barking as the beaver swam back and forth, just out of reach, teasing him.
The first night we stayed at camp was always an adventure. The kids had no trouble falling asleep - they were exhausted from a busy day getting boats int the water and being "gofers" for Dad and Grandpa as they hooked up the water and did various repairs. Tools were always just out of reach or they needed an extra hand to hold a board in place or to run an errand, and the boys were usually willing helpers, getting plenty of exercise running back and forth. But, for the adults, falling asleep wasn't always as easy. The din of "peepers" in the marsh was for some an irritation compared to the accustomed hum of traffic and neighborhood noises in town. There was the pattern to the peepers' song. As the dusk of evening settled, there was first a loud, clear solo followed by a steadily rising frog chorus in high-pitched unison for several minutes before calming to almost complete silence. Humans might begin to drift off and then the whole cycle started again with the leader calling out for everyone to chime in - over and over, again and again, throughout the night. For me, the sound of that frog concert was better than any mood music or "soundscape" I ever heard. It was a natural lullaby.
Opening camp, whether it's a rustic and frosty cold, dark cavern when you open the door, or a minimally-heated, tightly sealed capsule that is much as you left it in the autumn, everyone has nostalgic sensations in that first exciting moment. The smells, sights and sounds of Joe's Pond in spring are welcome reminders of all the good times, friendly gatherings and intimate moments experienced in the past, and anticipated for the coming months. Even for those who will return without a beloved family member, or must face the summer knowing a long-time friend will no longer be at the meetings or will be seen at the local store, just being here is soothing and calming. It's what summer at the pond is all about.
Whenever you are ready, welcome back, Joe's Ponder!