The National Weather Service and NOAA have been squawking all week about a series of cold fronts poised to slam western Montana and finally shower us with the fluffy white stuff that will give the skiers something to squeal about and the honeybees something to make honey with next summer.

I was inclined to ignore the dire predictions of howling winds and 3-10″ inches of snow, but Brother Dear, clearly so happy to be back under the Big Sky for the winter, scurried around like a little barn mouse yesterday, preparing.  He pulled the tractor into warehouse no. 2, gave it a thorough once over, unhooked the bush hog and hooked up the blade to plow snow with.  I remember the Christmas “we” gave my Dad the blade for his tractor like it was yesterday.  Mom orchestrated the whole thing, and attached a red velvet wire bow to it.  My Dad is not materialistic in any way (well, maybe in the Backpacking Gear way) and he can be hard to buy for, but he was clearly thrilled by the blade.

Brother Dear also organized us into a wood gathering party, and he, Honeydew, and I made multiple trips to our woodshed with the wheelbarrows, stocking the inside and outside wood boxes.  Although the power goes out surprisingly infrequently around these parts, when it does, a heat source is not merely an inconvenience, but a a life or death necessity.  As is a fully stocked pantry, freezer, and wine rack.

After we battened down the hatches, I wandered around, surveying the contents of the yard.  The boys put the lawn and patio furniture up earlier this week, but there were still odd buckets, shovels, and other detritus to pick up and put in their proper outbuildings.  Nothing makes me angrier than driving or tripping over something hidden by a few inches of snow that could have been picked up before winter.

Still, when I finished pouring candles at the warehouse at 7pm, and headed for Hillhouse, the temperature was steady at 43, and I felt sure that the storm would produce only rain, strange in mid November to be sure, but not un-possible.

And it did rain last night.  But sometime in the black depths before dawn, the temperatures finally plummeted, and at six a.m. I awoke to furiously falling snow and 18 degrees.

In the dark house, I switched the kettle on for tea, squeezing honey into my favorite Georgia Bulldogs mug, splashing in a hint of cream, and then remembering to add the Earl Gray as the water came to a boil.  Really, I think I could drink hot mugs of water laced with cream and honey and be equally happy.

Through the kitchen door, I watched the flakes two step and waltz and tango with the wind, under the spotlights, and I thought about my relationship with snow.  As a Southerner, I remain surprised by snow, though I’ve been in Montana the better part of ten years.  Pat Conroy wrote that Southerners are always delighted by snow, because of our perpetual surprise.  And if I never had to go anywhere, and if my pantry and wine rack were always full, and if I had someone to run to the post office for me, I probably would always delight in snow.

But this morning, Brother Dear and I were scheduled for clients in Cut Bank, and I paced the kitchen floor, listening to winds shake the firm timbers of Hillhouse, trying to decide whether or not to cancel.  I pictured my fingers, white knuckled on the steering wheel of my old truck, as I negotiated the white out conditions on Highway 464.  I thought about how low my blood pressure was at my last doctor’s appointment.

And I picked up the phone, explained the situation to my clients, and canceled.

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