Monday, December 10, 2012

The day I jumped off the deck

Welcome back, winter!" is the lead headline for today's Star Tribune.  

"Minnesota clobbered" it says next.

For the uninitiated this may appear a mixed message. The headline has a jubilant start. Then it throws in the word clobbered.

That sounds like we’ve gotten kicked around a bit, which we most certainly did as we clean up from the biggest storm in two years.

Maybe you have to live here to understand. Trust me on this if you don’t.

“Minnesota clobbered” is a triumphant statement if ever one was written.

Our state surely earns boasting rights for our pride in celebrating the elements.

Getting clobbered when the foe is Mother Nature makes us a worthy opponent and, for that, we collectively stand up and cheer.

Over sixteen inches of snow fell at Forest Lake in the northern metro on Sunday. 

Our area received a foot or more of snow. This is right in the ballpark as totals go all across the Cities.

It snowed steadily all day yesterday. About noon, as it kept coming, I went out to shovel the deck.

There was too much accumulation to remove all the snow. Some progress was made. This was round one for battling the snow heaps on the deck.

I've always tried to keep our deck clean of snow. It’s my one-person stand against winter.

My family will tell you I call it the Arizona deck. It's sun-soaked and bare boards when everything else is under drifts.

I went out for round two and round three. I didn’t exactly keep pace with the falling snow but it wasn’t gaining too much the upper hand.

The snow froze solid overnight and the deck remains snow-covered. The white flag was raised to yesterday’s storm.

So I can say my Arizona deck has moved to the Yukon for the season.

After the storm comes the beauty. The new snow is piled high and is breathtakingly fresh. It’s cold perfection picked out in the colors of blue and white.

The sun shone all day. The evergreens are flocked with snow. A sharp breeze tingles the skin. 

A filmy flotilla of clouds emphasizes the bright sky. You can’t dream up a snowy scene prettier than what we’re treated to today.

I was enjoying the crisp sunshine and dense mantles of snow on the spruce trees when another snow-filled moment came to mind.

It wasn't so long ago but I was more agile then. It wasn't  the current me who doesn’t, any more, as in the past, take the up escalators sprinting.

Even so, I feel I can rest on my laurels. I can say I jumped off a deck. I jumped off a deck into snow much like the snowy depths just deposited.

The jump was spur of the moment. The decision was not without risk, and I took that into consideration.

It was this spontaneous leap into the snow that grabbed my thoughts today.

It makes a good story but wasn’t hilarious then. I was cleaning our deck of new snow as I was doing yesterday.

I closed the sliding deck door behind me as I went out to work on the deck.

The door was starting to give some trouble about sticking and this worried me some. However, not wanting the cold air inside, I shut the door tight.

When the deck was clean, and I pushed on the door handle to get me in, the door wouldn’t budge. I was locked outside on the deck.

Frantic tugs on the handle were futile. The door, and me, were going nowhere.

Our deck was built without stairs. It’s a great plan. You have your own eagle aerie.

The part that wasn’t thought about is this: If you don’t have steps you don’t go down. This had never been a problem. We didn’t use the deck to access our yard.

Without steps, though, I was stuck on the deck. I was stranded, with no way to summon help, seven feet above the ground.  

The deck rails seemed to lean in on me as the situation was analyzed. My lovely balcony for summer reading was turning into a chilly prison.

My husband was at work. I was without a cell phone. A cell phone would have been the obvious solution. It makes you realize we act now as if we’ve carried them with us all the while.

Owning a cell phone was far into the future so this rescue option probably never came to mind.

Chances of someone driving by on our quiet cul de sac were slim to none. I wasn’t pinning hopes on a passerby.

If anyone from the car saw me waving they’d assume friendliness. They’d wave back, taking it as a neighborly exchange of greetings. Clearly, some other means of help would have to surface.

I wondered if the next-door neighbor was at home. There wasn’t much solace in the idea. As close as our houses sat to each other there was no window other than their bedroom for her to look out of and see my plight.

And this was based on the theory that she was at home. I cast a baleful glance in that direction. I wished even for their kitty to come to the window and take note.

A new thought came. Perhaps my neighbor was home and had an errand to run. As she backed her car out of the garage she’d glance up (was my prayer) and see me gesticulating wildly or hear me calling to her.

I was thankful for my puffy parka. Nevertheless, the cold was beginning to leak through. Next I’d be shivering. There was simply nothing to do. Except …

I looked down, judged the distance to the snowy ground, climbed on top of the deck rail and leapt.

It wasn’t a spectacular deck jump but it got me on terra firma without breaking a bone.

The padding of my parka absorbed some of the contact as I landed backward on the snow.

I was slightly dazed from the jump but more surprised at my audacity than anything.

Shaking off the snow I went around the house to open the garage door.

Once inside the garage, as I put together my strategy, I could get into the house through the screen door.

“If it’s open” came the immediate thought. The misgiving erased any brief sense of victory at attaining the warm rooms within.

“Please be open, open, open” I begged. One wants to believe that your need has sufficient power to turn luck your way. 

That morning, needless to say, the latched screen door didn't feel like luck to me.

Stymied at my own doorstep the only hope lay in my neighbor. I closed the garage door and went to see if she was home.

She answered the doorbell. She was mostly successful at keeping the surprise off her face at her neighbor standing there with snow clinging to me as if I’d been making a snow angel.

She had me come in. It was nearly noon. She was fixing chicken noodle soup for her preschooler. She invited me to join them for lunch.

Gratefully accepting, I used her phone to call Al at his job. His office wasn’t nearby. To come home he had to cut his work day short.

As soon as I saw his car turn our corner the problem seemed magically to disappear. Together we’d figure a way in. And we did.

Ro Giencke – December 10, 2012

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