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Winter Wondering

de (6-3-2011)
3 ecouri

A Snow-kiss Back to Her Here in the Baisoare Mountains

Did you ever wonder why some people are nuts enough to want to live in places like Iceland (I happen to have a very contented friend who is a professor in Reykjavik) or northern Minnesota (they love it there, Do-ent yahh knowe?)

Well just the other afternoon, as I was slipping around on the slushy city streets trying to get all my errands done in nearby big-city Cluj before another day off went by, I realized why.

Here was a place that was much like my native Rhode Island (weather-wise that is), and everyone looked so fresh and happy, even though the wind was biting and they had enough clothes on to fill a second-hand shop.  Then I knew it.  As I looked over at a little one all bundled up in her pink snow-baby suit, coordinating mittens with pony motifs dangling, tiny stubby fingers exposed and cute little fluff-trimmed boots chugging along, I saw that despite the freezing cold, there was a gleam in the eye much like you see in old Santa Claus…and he lives up there in North Pole land, and likes it, too.

What did we do when we were kids?  We begged to be outside, nary a care to our wet feet or frozen noses.  No, not us…  We were the kings and queens of the snowy places.  The only thing that’d tear us away from it all was a warm cocoa topped off with goo-goo Marshmallow Fluff (it’s an American thing).

My Granddaughter Mia Makes A Snow Angel For Me Back in America

I’ve been there and here in the Peace Corps and as I recall, done that, too.  The youngest ones love to make snowmen with me after class by the mountains.  The slightly older ones rope me into sledding downhill in wildly fashioned chains of three or four sleds, most of which are no bigger than the length of my right fibula, to careen in almost-vertical at break-neck speed.  Let me tell you, even the risky tobogganing that I took part in with friends in my middle school years in Providence didn’t hold a candle to how it feels to play and whiz around with the kids here in Romania.

I teach these guys all week and as tired as I sometimes am and even though I’m over fifty, I never miss a chance to share in one of their favorite pastimes outside of school.  Everyone should be so lucky.  I am.  Lucky that is.  Just to be here and to know all this stored-in-the-recesses of my memories kind of fun that happened long, long ago.  Back in the day, as we say, it was a good day when the snow fell and the winter was at its boldest.

So now I boldly go where other Peace Corps volunteers have gone before, enjoying the snow-castles, soaking up the snow-shine, listening to the snow-birds, and living the snow-woman kind of life (occasionally feeling a bit like an icicle—but with extreme pleasure).

Later, when I look at those frosty trees, the funny shaped snow-people and the bluest of skies overhead, I can remember how I once had a love for the winter back in Romania-land.  The wonderland of winters to recall every time I say to my grandchildren: “You know, I used to walk over two miles (about 5 km) every day in the snow to teach school in the countryside when I was in the Peace Corps.”  And they won’t laugh in disbelief like I did when I was young and my Dad told me the same story.  At least not until I fall flat on my behind because of the ice on the way into the Home Depot to buy some more shovels.


  • Teodor I. Burghelea: (7-3-2011 la 15:15)

    Dear Natalie,

    Strange as it may sound to some, but my memories about snow are pretty much similar. In some respects, certainly. In 80’s the winters were harsh in Galatz – Romania, the place I grew up. From November to March, mountains of snow (the global warming was not really functioning those days…). And nobody was cleaning that up off the streets.
    A troublesome issue for our parents who could not go to work, but a joyful one for us: the schools were closing up and we could build castles in the snow instead of learning boring (to me) things. And that is precisely what we were doing: strongholds in the snow.
    It took me many years to understand why was I so much into this stuff, and yet I am not sure I really got it right, even now. But here it goes.
    It was all about light, I guess. To me, in those days, light was more precious than gold, for after 6 pm the electricity was off. Some sort of a reign of darkness, hard to picture for many westerners I reckon. It seemed to me those days that people were losing their identity at once right at 6PM(assuming they had one before 6PM…), they were becoming shadows of grey silently crawling against grey walls. I guess that hurt.
    There was no more of „you”, „me”, „him”, „her”, no more „identity” – we were all just shadows. All of a kind, prisoners of the same fear(s). The snow was somehow changing all that.
    I do not know if it was just my childish heart, but snow+moon+stars meant to me those days plenty of light! Just as we were picturing NY from the classical movies. It was some sort of reminder of a world forbidden to us – not necessarily better in all the respects, but just forbidden to us and, certainly different than ours.

    I can now tell, however, that physically the picture above is not foolish at all. Years after, I have calculated the amount of extra light brought by the magic combination snow+clear sky. I have used an estimate for the amount of snow our humble city square could accumulate over two days of heavy snow (in the absence of any city hall activity, and that was by all means accurate!) and assumed a clear December Sky at that geographic position in order to get an estimate of the number of stars, their position, their collective brightness etc.
    It turned out that this combination can „kill” the darkness up 63% of its might…which is to me a decent excuse for my early „snow passion”.
    Nevertheless, April was soon coming after, the snow was melting down (and getting replace by a thick mud for that was not removed either, and could not reflect moon light or any light) and the darkness was setting back in…(how could Deep Purple have known that when they wrote „April” – no clue?). I have ended up just as Deep Purple: hating old time Romanian „April”.

    I close this here by thanking you for your contributions. To Peace Corps, to Romania, to this virtual journal and … to us all, regardless where we saw our first snow!


    Teodor I. Burghelea

  • Cristina Dobrin: (8-3-2011 la 07:59)

    Draga Natalie,
    In copilarie, iubeam iarna, cu zapezile ei, pe care le asteptam cu nerabdare.

    Locuiam in Arad, unde, in parcul de langa malul Muresului, ne petreceam fiecare dupa-amiaza de iarna, dar mai ales serile. La lumina palida a becurilor, zapada ne vrajea cu stralucirea ei. Oricat de frig era, petreceam ore in sir pe derdelus, cu sanii, capace de wc, saci de plastic, orice material care ne ajuta sa alunecam de la inaltimi… Veneam acasa cu hainele inmuiate in zapada topita care ne ajungea pana la piele.

    Alteori petreceam ore in sir pe patinoarul amenajat pe lacul din Padurice sau pe terenul de handbal, in aer liber, al Clubului Constructorul. Imi amintesc de ceaiul si gogosii pe care inca ii mai puteam cumpara pe marginea patinoarului (in perioada Epocii), de „lanturile umane” pe care le formam cu prietenii cu care ne dadeam intalnire la patinoar.

    Gaseam bucuria in placerile marunte, eram tineri, eram frumosi, cu inimile fierbinti.

    Acum locuiesc in Toronto, unde iernile sunt lungi, zapada nu ma mai vrajeste ca odinioara. Doar cand ma aflu pe partiile de schi, amintirile navalesc, asociez mirosul proaspat al zapezii cu acele zile ale copilariei….

  • Natalie Montanaro: (9-3-2011 la 06:59)

    To Teodor and Cris,

    It’s very warming to hear that you both enjoy the things that winter can provide to soften our hearts to the natural beauty that is necessary to bring us into the springtime each year. Especially here in Romania, I have seen such beautiful things in the forests and on the farms which will certainly be the first thing I think of when I see any future snows, whether near or far. And Teodor, what an interesting way to look at things! Something I’ve never thought of and will certainly find the time to research a bit more. Thank you for relating such detail about how our humble earth and the vast expanse of our atmosphere are never very far away to influence us on a daily basis. And surely, the sunlight is a great addition to our „winter blues”, isn’t it? Thank you for your comments and time to read my piece and a wonderful wintering to you both until primavara arrives!

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