Wednesday, December 29, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

About midday on Sunday, December 26, known to some as Boxing Day, snow began to fall in New York City. It continued overnight and into Monday morning. This snow was a true blizzard, with lots of wind and some thunder and lightning, too. Quite a show.

I was working on Sunday, and was relieved to be granted permission to have the shop close a bit early. We had shoveled the sidewalk and entrance way leading to the shop several times during the afternoon, but our efforts were quickly covered by those energetic flakes.

All of us who were working on Sunday were fortunate to have access to public transportation in the form of our underground subway trains. I had an easy time getting home, and was so glad to be indoors as the storm really got going.

I woke several times during the night to peek out my front window and was amazed that wind was so strong, bending the trees along the street, and swirling the snow to create a curtain blocking a northern view past the brownstone houses just across the street. Remarkable. The occasional thunder surprised me every time.

Morning arrived. The light was that unusual glow of snowy ground cover mixing with falling snow, and muted sunlight shining from way above the clouds.

The following picture shows the view from my bathroom window, where my fledgling paperwhite bulbs were backed by a drift of snow on the other side of the glass. I thought that drift made a strange little miniature landscape.

Gradually the snow began to lighten, and once again I could see past the buildings across the street, as my usual uptown view returned.

Ah, but below the rooftops the view was very changed. The brownstone's front steps were smoothly covered. No one had entered or left that building overnight. The little garbage cans to the left of the steps were covered with their polka dots of snow. It was clear that at least one New York City snow plough had scraped some snow from the actual street, but not many vehicles were brave enough to venture down the block.

Here is another photo of the same view that indicates just how quiet and still and even was that snow.

That tranquility would have been lovely to have enjoyed from inside my apartment. The snow was about 18 inches deep, deeper in places.
I had to go to work. The option of keeping the shop closed was not available. Again, those of us scheduled to work on Monday were fortunate to have access to public transport that was functioning. Many of the City's bus and subway and railroad lines were not functioning. The wind was still very strong, and as I walked down my street (in the street) I was lucky not to find myself blown over.
It was strange being at work on such a quiet day. The downtown neighborhood of the shop is normally filled with tourists and really buzzing. This was not true on Monday, but we did have some business.
Again, we had to shovel out the sidewalk and entrance way. It's the law!
Again, we were fortunate in being granted permission to close the shop early.

When I slipped and slid my way to the subway for the ride home, I saw something I have never seen in all my years in New York. There was actually an accumulation of snow along the platform where we travelers wait for the next arriving train. The snow had be able to force its way underground through the grating in the street above.
The following photo documents this. It is not a pretty picture, but shows how commuters had tramped down a passageway that would align with a doorway to an arriving train. In the background you can perhaps see a train stalled in the station, with an Out of Service light in the space that would usually indicate its destination.

Once again, it was relatively easy to get home. And again on Tuesday, I was scheduled to work. Again, all staff scheduled for Tuesday got to work.
Signs of normalcy began to reassert themselves around the neighborhood. Various delivery services were again able to make their deliveries. The City's Sanitation Department had cancelled garbage collection services until more of the snow had been dealt with. City sanitation trucks have snow ploughs attached to them and are used to clear the streets. There are many, many streets to clear.
Our shop makes use of a private garbage collection company, and a representative of that company informed me that they were resuming service...if we could provide them access to the actual curb location usually used to stow the garbage on collection nights.
Well. The City snow ploughing had created curbside drifts that were about four feet tall. I am not a large person, but I do have inner strength, and so, I shoveled snow for about three hours yesterday to create an opening in the snow drifts that we could use for our required garbage collection.
As I was working on this channel, I realized that it was also useful for tourists who wished to cross to the popular restaurant opposite our location. A few said thank you in various languages. One, repeat one, polite man asked if he could help me. I declined.

By the time I got home I was pretty tired, and little sore. I stopped by my neighborhood pharmacy to ask the wise pharmacist what he recommended for someone who had my symptoms. He made a wise recommendation.
I was asleep earlier than usual, and woke up with very minor aches. This was a day off! I was able to get all today's errands done.

The magical glow of our blizzard has now been transformed to the inevitable slushy aftermath.
I offer you all a few photos of today's view from that same apartment window.

You can see the sidewalks are clear, the street is pretty clear, and those curbside drifts are still formidable.

The staff of the large building across the street has kindly cut a channel through the ice-coated drift to allow access to the street. Their channel is larger than mine, but strong men created their channel!

I am delighted to be indoors with warm, dry feet. It's grand to have a hot cup of tea. One little tablet from that Advil bottle seems to have been all it took for my muscles to recover overnight.
The new issue of The New Yorker magazine has arrived with a funny cover reminding us that it's just about time to say...

Happy New Year!


  1. Ah Frances, what a week! I've been following your eastern weather, worried about cousins in Nova Scotia who have had a terrible month with flooding, ice and blizzards. I can't believe the head office of your enterprise would have you shovel out access for the garbage collection - they owe you BIG thanks! Hour for hour and dollar for dollar, no one works longer and harder than those in the retail industry - I'm convinced, from experience.
    I loved the glimpses you gave us of your neighbourhood. It's just as I'd imagined!
    Happy New Year!

  2. What a week you've had. New snow is pretty as a picture and casts a magical soft light on everything but is nicer to look at than to move! Do be careful with that snow shovelling, I have caused myself real muscle strain in the past.

    I like the juxtaposition of your paperwhites and the sahara-like slopes of snow behind them. And "polkadots of snow", a ovely description.

    Take care, keep safe and warm and dry. Wishing you a very happy New Year.

  3. What a saga - it's fascinating to read your personal account of what we've seen in the news, though clearly not such fun for you to endure!

    I love how your photos of the peace and stillness of heavy snow-covered streets show how different the experience would have been if you could only have stayed cosily indoors, and the contrast between this and having to get out there and face a working day (snow on the subway platform!!). I'm full of admiration for your snow-shovelling and thought the last picture summed up the experience beautifully!
    I hope your weekend is altogether more peaceful weather-wise. Wish you a very happy New Year!

  4. Gosh, you're a star, Frances. I heartily endorse what Pondside says (as one who also knows!)about the retail industry. I do hope your organisation appreciate what a treasure they have in you.

    It was about this time last year that we were getting very excited about our trip to New York. Your posts never fail to help us recapture the magic of that very special time... but I'm relieved we didn't have all that snow!

  5. What dramatic weather you have had, and what a 'snow hero' you have been - I thought of you as the news reported the snow storms about to hit your part of America and wondered if you would have to work - but no rest for the retail workers! (I had Andy for two days before he had to return). Saw your Mayor Bloomburg on TV, and wished he'd come over here to sort our sorry mess out so efficiently and quickly!

  6. I realised from our News broadcasts that NY had snow but your post has been so much more enlightening. It makes our little snowfall seem like nothing much at all - but boy did the country whinge!!!

    I don't know many who would have shovelled snow for 3 hours - you deserve that cup of tea and a few hours cosy reading.

    Happy New Year!

  7. Frances, what can I say you make it all so vivid that I can feel myself there, shovelling snow and creating those avenues. No wonder you were tired. I was wondering what your pharmacist had recommended. I think I would have said a glass of malt whisky - good for big and little persons alike. Do hope you have good heating and that you feel safe on the subway. I still think of Pelham 123 when I hear the screeching of the wheels in the dark such as in your photograph. Somehow the London underground seems less threatening (but probably is less safe for all that)! Do hope you had a very good Christmas. Our snow is all gone now. We are back to warm, wet damp as if we were on the other end of the weather machine that gave you your blizzards. We are left with climate from which all weather has been extracted. Hope the muscles are no longer sore. Fxx

  8. Every time NY comes on the TV screen, I have thought of you Frsnces! I've done a bit of snow shovelling in Canada and it's no fun, I hope you are feeling less sore now.
    All best wishes for a very happy New Year!

  9. Three hours of snow shovelling! I am impressed. I certainly hope your superiors know your worth. You should get extra pay.

    Snow can be beautiful but also a menace for travellers and folk who have to work. We were lucky getting to Antwerp for Christmas but others had it very hard and missed their flights.

    Hapy New Year Frances.

  10. A very interesting post, Frances. Just goes to show what an enterprising and energetic woman you are!

    I wish people in England would clear their pavements. Here the opposite is true: they are left to nature because if anyone slips on a cleared path the clearer upper is liable to being prosecuted!

    Have a happy New Year and hopefully a pleasant way to see the new year in.

  11. Wow! It is supposed to snow here in Osaka, Japan tomorrow too but I know we won't have as much snow that you are experiencing! I love the photo of the onions and snow on the windowsill. ...

    Please stay warm and have a fabulous New Year!

  12. Happy New Year! (We are ahead of you here in Japan.)

    Paperwhite Narcissus! hee hee...I thought it was "interesting" that you had so many onions on y our windowsill ;-)

    BTW, I am still on chapter 3 of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet...It is my "homework" for January!

  13. WOW, you've had some snow! It's made the news over here too, I was thinking of you shovelling away your pathway. Hope those aches and pains have eased. And I hope the light reflected off the snow is as beautiful as ours was, our dark farmhouse was lit up in every corner by the bright, shining light.
    Happy New Year to you too, Frances, I look forward to another year of our 'virtual' (but oh so real) friendship! x

  14. Frances,
    Happy New Year to you too.
    I saw the snow on the news, you really got it bad. Our snow has all gone except for the hill tops, we certainly had a white Christmas this year.
    Wishing you everything you wish for in 2011.

  15. Dear Frances, three hours of snow shovelling isn't the right workout for you!!!
    It's a strongman's work which your Company could surely afford the bucks for.
    Wish you a Happy New Year 2011.
    I'm glad, I found your very special and charming blog, and the views out of your windows.
    Thank you.

  16. It was good to read your first hand account of what we've seen on TV Frances. Happy to know you've stayed safe and your aches have not been too bad! Happy New Year to you.

  17. Happy New Year Frances! I love your photo of the snow against the bathroom window, like a small landscape, as you say. You've given us a beautiful feeling of your experience of the snow, just lovely Frances. Love Vanessa xxx

  18. wow, so much snow..
    hope you have a great new year..
    love all the pics of in and around new york that you share with us..
    take care,

  19. Happy New Year to you Frances, what an amazing time you have had! I hope you have recovered from your snow shoveling and think you should be applauded for your efforts. It used to be the custom here also to clear the footpath but then came the notion that if you cleared your path and someone then slipped, you would be sued.

    I heard how your refuse collectors also can be called into duty for snow plough duty, I think we should take a leaf out of your book.

    By the way, your lovely tea cup design below is as delightful as ever!

  20. Frances, how could I have missed this blog.!

    Great pics you have posted for us, thanks Frances, I remember seeing two of those great pics of NY snow on the evening to our owl post.

    Especially love your Festive Tea Cup card too Frances, thank you.

    Hope those refuse collectors have now been too.

    I would adore to have that New Yorker Mag too Frances, love the cover to the New Year edition.

    May the New Year ahead be a happy kind for you dear Frances.


  21. So fun visiting the city again with you!

  22. A very Happy New Year to you Frances, I loved the snowy city pictures, it was soo deep. I am glad you made it into and home from work safely and that your flu did not escalate into a fever. We had family over from North Carolina, and they only just made it over as theirs was one of the first flights allowed to land at Heathrow again after the snow. Everyone has left for home again now and life gets back to normal....but there is more snow on the way ....
    Best wishes,
    Posie x

  23. Hi Frances,
    A continued Happy New Year to you!
    I hope some of that snow has melted by now. It sounds like a little bit too much work. Well, hopefully spring is soon around the corner.
    Keep safe and warm!
    All the best,
    Ingrid x

  24. How did I manage to miss this splendid detailed post!
    I'm so glad you survived to enjoy the New Yorker and a nice warm drink in Spode Italian china!
    What weather we are having....still are having.
    I'm fed up with it
    though Buster doesn't seem to mind......
    Will pop down to see you in Soho very soon
    I do wish this wretched cold would stop.

  25. I bet NY looked fabulous in the snow, I'd love to see it in the depths of winter. Thanks for visiting me Frances, and sharing some 'grey' love.
    Hope you're having a wonderful January.
    Diana x

  26. Dear Francis,
    I hope your start into the New Year was a bit less tiresome than the last days of the old one!
    Amazing how Mother Nature still can outwit our resources and create a perfectly fine mess whenever it pleases her to do so. However, a bit - or a lot - of snow seems to be the lesser evil after hearing about all that water coming down in less fortunate parts of the world.
    Francis, I wish you a very good year,
    stay safe and warm,

  27. I hope you are well. I look forward to seeing another post soon.

  28. No new blog post yet? :(

    Your lovely painting has appeared in a UK magazine called Spirit and Destiny.... I had my house featured and they included a close-up of my mantelpiece with it... made me very happy. :)