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An Attempt To Explain Why Southerners Love Snow

Feb

21

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 | 10 comments

Snow church

i.

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up….”

It was little more than a punchline to me back when it aired, a TV commercial for LifeCall, a med-alert device for the elderly. Unintentionally campy. A joke’s butt. Easy target for late night talk show hosts.

Though I can’t say for certain, I imagine back in the day even I made sport of it. So the irony is not wasted on me, now, that when my countenance falls, that is the pathetic whimper of my spirit:

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

Last week it snowed everywhere I’ve ever lived.

All those images of blinding white turned my brown eyes

green and

then blue.

 

ii.

It happened over 30 years ago and to this day remains one of my fondest childhood memories:  a winter storm that brought layers of ice and snow and flannel and wool.

Trees fell. Power lines snapped. And teenagers teemed from their houses like ants escaping a flood.

It was before cell phones existed and though I can’t remember if home phone service was affected, somehow we managed to find one another.  Prowling from house to house – on foot, because the roads were sheets of slick glass – we hunted for two things:  food and fire.

We were wolves, moving in a pack.

There were a lot of kids in my neighbor but we weren’t necessarily all friends.  Sure, we knew each other, but high school divides just as much as it clicks.  But give us a wintry mix and what you have is The Breakfast Club effect–a bunch of teens as different as night and day and Mars and Venus, finding a way toward each other.

At least that’s how I remember it.

Ours was one of the lucky houses; we had a gas stove.  The previous owners had created an apartment of sorts upstairs–a bedroom, a bathroom, and a tiny alcove with a kitchen sink and gas range.

That winter storm was the only time I recall us using the upstairs stove.

 

iii.

Living in the Southeastern United States my entire life, I’ve only had one white Christmas.  One shimmery, sparkly, enchanting, miraculous white Christmas.  I know it’s not true, but I wanted to claim it as a God-gift especially to me (just like when he sent the baby rainbow to my front yard).

If snow is forecast, sound sleep is impossible; I’ll awaken and look out my window a dozen times.  When my hopes are raised high by the weatherman’s prediction, they fall particularly hard when he’s wrong; more often the case than not.

I realize not everyone shares my fizzy affections for random, Southern snowfall ~

It’s cold. Pipes freeze. Nose runs. Ears are cold. Trees are lifeless. Power goes out. It’s drab and gray outside. Ground is mushy. Grass is dead. Days are short. Clothes are wet. It’s cold. Cars crash. Roads close. Sidewalks are slippery. Snowball fights result in stinging welts. Snowmen get dirty mud and grass rolled up inside them (unlike the movies). It’s cold. Batteries die. Power bills are higher. Clothes are bulky and binding. Skin is pale. Skin is dry. Weight is gained. No BBQs. It’s cold. Run out of bread. Run out of milk. No milk sandwiches. It’s cold.  ~ my friend, Jason, and his thoughts on winter and snow

My husband thought Jason’s approximation was spot on.  It’s one of those things upon which we agree to disagree.

 

iv.

The year we moved to Tennessee, I thought we were finally moving to a place that would have a proper winter:  decent snow half a dozen times scattered between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day.  That’s how it went in RobinWorld, anyway.

Only after we were there a while and I started talking to people, I realized we lived in the Tennessee Valley – roughly the same elevation as our previous hometown and all the ones before that.  They had just as little snowfall as everywhere else I had lived.

Except that winter, a huge snowstorm was forecast!  Predictions of 10″-12″ inches went on for days, and I could barely sleep a wink the night it was to arrive.

Before morning’s first light, I awakened to green grass and the bad breath of disappointment.

The snow apparently didn’t get the memo we had moved, so it skipped us and went straight to where we had just left.

This was 2003, five years before I would join Facebook, but friends from our hometown were emailing updates about their snowfall.  They tried to measure the snow but their rulers sank below the surface.

Their joy sounded 10 feet tall but my disappointment had no bounds.

I was stupid-depressed and hated myself for feeling so low over something as silly as not getting snow.

I wouldn’t realize until over a decade later it really wasn’t about the snow….

 

v.

It happened again last week, just over 10 years from the previous time. History repeated.

We moved; but this time I had no delusions of snow this winter, we’re farther South and temperatures run noticeably higher.

Except sometimes God is really generous and he’ll throw a girlfriend a bone–

We had a bit of snow the other week, and yes, it made me so happy I literally jumped for joy, but….

But

Something was missing.

Grasping air and straws for most of my life when asked Why do you love snow so much? I finally put my finger on it this past week, when, like I said, history repeated itself.  Once again, snow was forecast where we lived, but it skipped us and went straight to our hometown, and all the ones before that…

In my funk, I tried to figure out how this no-snow thing could affect me so deeply – I mean, broken-heart sad, like I’ve been robbed of something valuable (and as soon as I tapped those words out, I realize how stupid-crazy it sounds).

Like usual, I thought about my favorite childhood winter memory…

and I remembered The Great Snow Disappointment of 2003…

and in the midst of torturing myself by stalking Facebook images of snow EVERYWHERE I’VE EVER LIVED…

I finally realized it wasn’t about the snow.

Wait–that’s probably not true; it is about the snow, but that’s not the all of it.

It’s about the magic of the snow!

 

Now, I realize this isn’t universal, and for my Northern and Mid-western friends it’s a different story, but I suspect it’s the nature of scarcity that makes significant snowfall so special in the South.

School is canceled at the first mention of it because municipalities aren’t equipped to handle the roads; though they’re cursed or reviled or simply made fun of, it’s best to err on the side of caution.  I wanna smack people when they disdain Southerners for not being able to drive in the snow, BECAUSE WHY SHOULD WE KNOW HOW TO?  It’s a rarity, we don’t have snow tires, and snow plows are practically nonexistent!

It’s like expecting someone to know how to swim when they’ve never been under water.

When it snows, we come out of our homes and find one another.  We share what we have and make sure everyone has what they need.  We feed and take care of each other.  Grown-ups rediscover the art of play–my God, my 74-year-old father -in-law built a snowman, and it was just he and my mother-in-law at home!

Yes, we birth snowmen and think they’re Beauty when, really, they more closely resemble the Beast bless our hearts – All those rocks and leaves and twigs woven right into frosty white sweaters.

We can’t run errands, or go shopping, or go very far at all. Whether or not we fight or embrace it, life slows down.  We make sleds out of cookie sheets and trashcan lids, and because there are baby booms nine months after snow storms, apparently a lot of people are making something else, too.  We’re present with one another.

Boundaries are erased and we walk a common experience.

We talk about the weather because it is something to talk about!

But when you’re in a new place and snow happens, those things don’t yet exist….

My longing for snow is a longing for–

people at their best,

cherished moments and memory-making,

rediscovering the value of play for play’s sake…

but mostly a longing for community.

Forever I thought it was just about the frozen stuff.  But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

What lies beneath the surface is so much bigger (isn’t that usually the case?).

 

 

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CAPTION THIS! {a Notes From A Blue Bike GIVEAWAY!}

Jan

29

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 | 21 comments

My friend LeAna dubbed this little jump of mine “The Robin” and I loved it when she’d send pictures of herself (or her son) duplicating the move while living in Europe.   Come to think of it, living abroad must bring that out; I only do TheRobin when I’m especially happy, which is what I was when we visited Paris and Heidelberg.

I’m also that kind of happy when we get a rare, Southern snow–

Snow Happy - Jumping in Snow

Back in the blogging dark ages, I had this fun circle of friends, some of whom aren’t blogging anymore (Susan), some who blog when they good and daggum well feel like it (Karmyn, Pamela and Kathy), one profane, sweet, curmudgeonly Australian (Peter), one who actually visited me

and Ree.  She blazed blogging trails like there was no tomorrow.  Then, again, she is a Pioneer Woman and that’s what they do.  Blaze trails.

Back then, PW hosted “Give That Photo a Name” contests, but eventually they grew so big, she had to move on.  Or maybe it was because she was having more fun cooking on television or writing lots of books or homeschooling or renovating a building in their hometown.  It’s hard to say which, exactly, but this we know:  girlfriend is busy.

I entered every GTPaN I saw but the closest I ever got to winning was an honorable mention–how could anyone compete with a sarcophagus?  I didn’t even know what that was until the contest.

Anyways……….

My son captured the image above when we ventured outside to play in the snow, a rarity in these parts.  My husband doesn’t quite understand me, why I have such fizzy affection for snow, but I do…I’m the one who’s waking up every 15 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG to see if it’s here yet, the one who’s blue for days when the forecast is nothing but an empty tease.

On the surface, seemingly unrelated, I know my friend Tsh has a new book coming out next week:  Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.  Except I don’t think my delight in snow – SO MUCH SO, THAT I’M LITERALLY JUMPING FOR JOY – is that far removed from “the art of living intentionally in a chaotic world”.  Why, in Robin World (the term affectionately assigned by my husband to the space inside my head) IT’S EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

I haven’t read Notes From a Blue Bike yet but every indication is it’s going to speak straight to who I am in some respects, and who I’d like to be in others.  It’s about slowing down, becoming better intentioned, not allowing our lives to be the boss of us.  Watch her trailer and you’ll see a glimpse of what I mean.

AND…in addition to sending a book to me, Tsh’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, is allowing me to give away a few books.  In the spirit of blogging days gone by, I decided my picture needs a FUN caption or comment.  I’ll reward three books to those who enter by way of in instagramFacebook or comments to this post.   

I’m convinced we need the message of Notes From a Blue Book, and if you’d like to win a copy, PLEASE leave a fun caption (or six) anywhere you please.  If you aren’t already subscribed to my blog, now is the perfect time to do so; and if you haven’t already, follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

I’ll choose my favorite captions and post the winners’ names here on next Wednesday; feel free to enter as often as a creative whim hits you.  FYI, I’m partial to poetry; even a simple haiku might land you a book if it strikes my fancy.

Help spread the word?  Share this post with your friends with the easy share buttons below.

 

Robin Heart Signature - Green

 

 

 

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Blinded by the white ~ a rare, Bavarian winter spectacular

Feb

20

Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 | 12 comments

It has occurred only twice in one hundred years, during the winter of 1911 and again during this winter.  The first was in a non-violent protest of sorts; the second a celebration and commemoration of the first.

SchneeKirche, translated in English, Snow Church

DSC_0060

Ex-pats visiting SchneeKirche, aka Snow Church, in Mitterfirmiansreut, BavariaIts singular beauty might have gone unknown to us had Deede, a fellow ex-pat from Tennessee, not invited us for a road trip to Mitterfirmiansreut, Bavaria, a small alpine town that shares Germany’s border with the Czech Republic.  About two hours away, it was more than worth the drive and price of admission. 

Snowdrifts-taller-than-meCamera strapped on and rivaling the Abominable Snowman or Pillsbury Doughboy, I was ready.  Tad paid the €5 for our tickets and we were on our way…

…if we could have only seen where we were going!

 

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Visibility was about 25 meters.

We were told not to touch the ice sculptures and I thought, “WHAT ice sculptures?!”  As our eyes adjusted to the thick fog, they seemed to appear when we were within touching distance. 

 

Snow SculptureMitterfirmiansreut, Bavaria, February 2012.  My best guess is this is a representation of God protecting SnowKirche; that seems to be the little shape on the pedestal.

Snow sculpture outside Snow Church

Snow sculpture near SchneeKirche

Snow Church’s welcoming committee, my favorite snow sculpture.

 

As our eyes carve through the fog, SchneeKirche comes into view.

 

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SchneeKirche entrance signage

In 1911 when the original SchneeKirche was constructed, villagers built it in protest because officials wouldn’t build a church in their town; they were deemed too poor and rural.  In order to worship, they had to travel a ways to a nearby town.  During December of that year, Mitterfirmiansreut had heavy snowfall, preventing townspeople from traveling.  They decided to take matters into their own hands, and constructed a church from the only materials available to them:  snow and ice. 

The winter of 2011/2012 marked SchneeKirche’s 100th anniversary, so locals decided to construct a modern snow church in commemoration of their history.  It opened in late December and they hope it remains intact through March. 

DSC_0977

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DSC_0983Snow Church’s interior, February 2012.  My loose translation,
“Show some respect–stay off the stinkin’ alter!”

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LeAna. Robin & Molly at Snow Churchl-r, LeAna, who works with Tad, me, Molly, a translator.


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Close up of Snow Church "bricks"A close-up of Snow Church’s icy “bricks,” oddly my favorite picture of the day.

 

DSC_0996Learning a bit more, at least Molly is because she’s fluent in German.

 

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SchneeKirche was funded in part by local sponsors and cost about €70,000 to construct, so I’m not sure if this money is used for locals in need or somehow to maintain the structure. 

 

DSC_1006Evidence we were here…at least until the ink melts into paper. 
A nice little touch.


DSC_0019Hot, mulled wine, the perfect companion to our chilly tour.  Not only is this the first time I’ve tasted Glühwein, it’s the first time I ever HEARD of it!  Apparently it’s very popular during the winter in Germany (Europe?), especially during their famed Christmas markets.

 

DSC_0017I think our furry friend could have used a sip,
bless his little snow-faced heart.

 

Because it got crowded by the time I thought to video the interior, this isn’t the greatest quality, but at least you get a three-dimensional idea of SchneeKirche‘s interior–

Currently, there are no plans to construct a snow church in future years; which makes it even more special to have discovered it and had the chance to visit!

 

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Snowmageddon 2011 aka I’m kinda pathetic

Jan

10

Posted by on Jan 10, 2011 | 11 comments

I'm a blissfully happy snow bunny.  Creating a "Snow" category probably gives it away, but my ecstatic delight over the slightest hint of its arrival leaves no doubt.  My first White Christmas was arguably the best Christmas present I've ever had, and bonus–it was from God!

Tennessee Valley forecasts began predicting snow early last week for last night into today and though I tried to resist it, my hopes were high.  I'm pleased to report what most of you already know:  it snowed.  A lot.  The most I've seen since moving to Chattanooga 7 1/2 years ago.

Because the chance of precipitation was 100% (which really has nothing to do with "chance"), my kids made plans.  The boys went skiing with a friend and my daughter spent the night with her besties.  

Which left me alone ON THE PRETTIEST, SNOWIEST DAY OF THE YEAR!  

I took advantage of the quiet time by catching up on some things around here, reading a delicious book and writing like a mad man, but I couldn't help it– eventually I had to go outside, even if it meant sledding by myself.  I never realized before how much more fun it is to play in the snow with other people; I guess I never had reason to think about it.

Anyways…here are a few of my favorite captures from the day, ending with proof my vanity has gone right out the window…

bird in the snow

Shot looking through my back door, I can't believe this turned out so well.

 

close up of bird in snow
And a little bit closer…

 

Australian Shepherd in the snow
From feathered friends to furry friends.  I love this picture of Aussie, even if she's looking at me like I'm crazy.

 

Dog looking through window
I almost jumped out of my skin when I heard someone clomping around my front porch; but it was just Barkley, our neighbor's pup, spying on me and offering no apology.

 

ruler measuring snow
I turned our house upside down looking for a ruler; the best I could manage was a sad little protractor.  We averaged about 6" in our yards, but some drifts were closer to a foot or more.  The snow IN my boots proves it!

 

house covered in snow

A view of our house from near the bottom of the driveway. 

 

trees covered in snow

I love how everything looks like it's dusted in sugar or frosted with vanilla icing.  No wonder I'm craving sweets!

 

just me
This one I call "Self Portrait and Dog."  I wasn't going to let a pesky little detail like no one being home to take my picture stop me from documenting proof that I had, in fact, sledded and wiped out.  Once…maybe twice…but who's counting?

 

Got links to snow pictures from your blog or Facebook?  Please share in comments, I'd love to see them!

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Imaginatives will see a snowman’s light saber or Yeti’s toothpick

Dec

28

Posted by on Dec 28, 2010 | 4 comments

As a snow-deprived Southerner who finds kittenish delight in even the slightest of dustings, I understand mine is a short-sided view.  Where I see beauty and wonder and fun, friends north and west of me see dread and danger and imposition.  

I suppose it's a frosty bleached version of "the grass is always greener…."

Our celebrated, much-anticipated first EVAH White Christmas sent me on a photowalk around my yard and I discovered extraordinary coolness had been hanging just outside my bedroom window– 

snowy rooftop

Maybe it's the nerdy kid in me, but I would love to see time-lapsed photography of the icicles forming.  

They're gorgeous…

snow and ice on rooftop

 

And haunting…

Icicles on house

 

And stabbity…

icicles on house

 

Remember that scene in Lovely Bones where the very bad guy got his due?  When an icicle broke off a building and impaled him?  That's what I thought of when I took this picture–

icicle

…it would've been pretty funny for someone to have taken a shot of me hanging outside my window upside down, but for ego's sake, I'm glad no one saw me!

 

For perspective, I did break off one…

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And with hat hair, no make-up on and 12 layers of clothes, I kinda look like the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph holding an icy scepter.  

It doesn't take much to make me happy, does it?  Weather?!  While some find it pedestrian or unworthy of conversation, apparently I had plenty to say about it in 2010 ~

Please tell me I'm not the only one–if you've got a weather-related post in 2010, do share!

 

 

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When dreams come true…

Dec

26

Posted by on Dec 26, 2010 | 5 comments

Christmas 2010 will be The One I remember decades from now–the year I celebrated my first white Christmas….and it just occurred to me there are no pictures WITH ME IN THEM documenting this monumental occasion!  

Then again I was being "Mom," capturing memories of my babies.

Children walking up snowy driveway

Trudging up our steep drive after a sledding run.

 

Snowy view from our Keeping Room :)

The view from our keeping room.

 

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Our front porch stair rail looked like a little snow elf to me.

 

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The snow was delicate, crystally and wet–perfect for snowballs (and yet there were no fights.  Hmmm….)

 

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A gorgeous Winter Wonderland in Chattanooga!  

 

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Snowman construction underway….

 

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Rachel and Xavier the Snowman.

 

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Stephen and Xavier.  Proud "parents" they are.


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