Spring Snow: The Last Hurrah

My son Colin stomping in the snow while waiting for the bus. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

A few inches of heavy, lake-effect snow fell over central New York Tuesday morning. Despite the late April occurrence, I didn’t fret the spring storm. I felt invigorated walking to work, as the temperatures hovered near thirty, and I did not need to brush off the car or contend with clogged traffic.

Here are some photos I captured along the way.

Plants covered with snow. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Park bench covered by snow. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Tree branches covered with snow. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Statue in Firefighter’s Memorial Park in Syracuse. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

And I’ll end with a poem that will be relevant when warmer temperatures return and spring kicks into high gear.

Winter Away

While I loathe the
wind, cold and snow
winter imparts,

I’m always sad
when spring comes
and the chill
in the air departs.

With winter leaving,
it’s like I’m losing
a friend at the end
of the season.

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Post-COVID Winter Walk

I went out for my first real walk since testing positive for COVID, after completing the required isolation.

Branches, sky and building. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

I’m still not at 100 percent, but on this Sunday I was grateful for the combination of sun, sky, snow, air in lungs and limbs moving freely. I’m also thankful I didn’t slip and fall on the sidewalks packed down with ice and snow, resembling a Lake Placid luge track. I’m not taking any days or moments for granted.

A stick in the snow. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

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Remembering Bill

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. The holidays were very sad, as my stepfather, William Ruane, passed away on Christmas Day at Upstate University Hospital. He had broken his femur and then had a stroke after surgery. I’m still processing the loss.

I never called Bill “Dad,” but I considered him a second father instead of a stepfather. He played an instrumental role in my adult formation. I could write a lot more about this, but I don’t think I’d find the right words now to express how much Bill meant to me.

So I thought I’d repost an essay from 2013 that was published in Star 82 Review. I remember Bill posing for some pictures while sitting at the kitchen table, and I think this essay captures a little of his spirit.

Bill smoking. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Man in the Chair

It is late in the afternoon on a fall or winter day, and I am visiting my mother and stepfather at their home in Rome, New York. They are sitting in their family room watching TV; if I had to guess, I’d say the show is Judge Judy, Criminal Minds or NCIS.

My stepfather Bill, who owns his own contracting business, is reclining in his favorite chair, wearing a work-stained hoodie and sipping a cup of coffee. I walk into the room and sidle up to him. I put my hand on the bald crown of his head, which has a fringe of brownish-gray hair on the sides, and I feel the warmth emanating from his skull. Often when I do this, Bill will say, “God, your hand is freezing.” But he does not say anything, and I leave my hand on top of his head and take a glance at the television screen while darkness gathers outside the windows.

A sick realization makes me shudder. I pull my hand away because I recognize in the moment that the head of this man I love could, in a matter of seconds, be crushed with a baseball bat or cracked open with an ax blade. Blood could splatter against the walls, and he would slump over in the chair, inert.

And I think this not because I am homicidal or possess a desire to kill my stepfather. Quite the opposite. Fear sets in because I realize the man sitting in the chair, with a beating heart, functioning brain and sense of humor, could be gone in an instant. He could be animated in one moment and his breath snuffed out in the next.

Bill getting a haircut from George, a barber in Rome, New York. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Most likely my stepfather will not be killed by a blow to the head or a tree crashing through the house. A heart attack, stroke or cancer will probably get him in the end. And while I already know this, I pause and allow this knowledge to sink in, so I will appreciate him better.

A year or two after this dark afternoon, my mother would lose her battle with cancer. And her death would remind me that we do not live life all at once. It’s not one big project we need to complete by a deadline or a trip to Europe you have planned for years.

Instead, we experience life in small doses, tiny beads of time on a string. And it helps to recognize them, to acknowledge you are present and alive even in the most mundane circumstances—while you are talking with co-workers in the parking lot before heading home for the day, running errands, doing laundry, baking a chocolate cake, tossing a football with friends, reading to your kids at bedtime. These are subplots that drive our stories forward. They are not exciting. They are not memorable. But they are part of our existence, and we must value them before they and we are gone.

So, after I pull my hand away from Bill’s head, I decide to sit on the couch next to my mother. She hates when people talk during a program because it distracts her, so I look at the screen even though I am not interested in the show, and I do not say a word. But during a commercial break, she mutes the sound with the remote control, and Bill and I converse about something. And I can’t remember the topic we discussed, and it doesn’t really matter.

What I remember is three family members spending an evening together.

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Spring Snow

A blast of spring snow hit Central New York last night. And guess who the idiot is who transplanted the shovels and snow brushes from the backseat to the storage unit miles away? I should have known winter isn’t done with Syracuse even when the calendar turns to spring. Next year I’ll wait until late May before putting away the snow utensils.

Snow covering my Honda CR-V. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Snow behind my apartment building dumpster. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

The snow reminds me of a very short poem I wrote. It seems fitting for today.

Leaving Syracuse

The grass may not
be greener,
but at least
it won’t be
covered with snow.

Snow covering grass. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

 

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Morning Snowfall

I looked out my window this morning and saw snow falling, with big flakes covering the windshields of the cars in my apartment building parking lot. It reminded me that snowfall is typical in late March in Syracuse, New York. Here, the official start of spring doesn’t mean the end of winter weather.

Of course everything is different now with coronavirus, but the normalcy of seeing snow falling comforted me. It reminded me that nature goes on, that life goes on. And the silence of the falling snow made me feel safe and secure, even as I remained trapped inside.

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A Poem for the Start of Spring

Early spring has always been my favorite time of the year, as we put winter behind us here in Central New York. Of course coronavirus means nothing is normal this spring.

However, I am editing a new poetry collection that contains a spring-themed poem that lifted my spirits because it reminded me of happier times. I thought I would share it as we all hope for a return to normalcy.

Best Time of the Year

Snow finally
giving way
to grass
in Syracuse.

Cold mornings,
but temps
climbing
above forty.

March Madness,
Lenten fish fries
and the crack
of the bat.

Yippee …
it looks like
we’ve survived
another winter.

But never forget—
in Syracuse
a lake-effect blast
can still chase away
the Easter Bunny
and send the Moms
scurrying to their closets
to retrieve sweaters
on Mother’s Day.

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Waiting Game

I should have posted this short poem yesterday, after we received a burst of snow as a cruel April Fool’s joke. But I think it’s still apropos, since the cold and snow will remain with us for a bit longer.

Plea for Spring

Dear Mother Nature:
I have one small
Request as the
Calendar turns
From March to April.
Can you give us
More Easter and
Less Christmas,
Please?

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Winter Survival Revisited

I wrote this poem about a year ago, and thought I would re-post it in light of the fact we are in the grips of a polar vortex and with Groundhog Day set for this weekend. Let’s hope February will be warmer with less snowfall than January. But I wouldn’t count on it, at least in Central New York.

How to Survive Winter in Syracuse

The only way to survive
a Syracuse winter
is to think of the snow
as a friend and not a foe.
When you scrape the ice
crusted on your windshield
and the snow clogs the streets,
when your tires spin,
or your car veers off the road—
regarding the snow
as a friend and not a foe
will help you to endure the season.
Even when the snow lashes
your face as it blows sideways,
or frozen clumps melt inside your boots,
making your feet cold and damp,
you must remember to
view the snow as a friend instead of a foe.
And what a friend … a friend that keeps on
giving and giving and giving
six months out of the year.
To which I say:
thank you my dear friend,
but I don’t need your generosity.

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A Poem for Winter’s Lingering Grip

The calendar may say April but Old Man Winter is still holding on in central New York, refusing to step aside and let spring take over the scene. So while temps fail to crack 50—at least for now—I will offer a fictional, cold weather-themed poem from my latest collection.

Winter Morning

The woman in 309B rolls over on her side.
She reaches across the bed,
seeking the warmth of her lover’s body.
But no one is there.
And she remembers sending her man away.
She recalls a conversation filled with words
like freedom, space, and separation.
At this hour, though, she would trade them in
for flesh in her bed,
the presence of a person she no longer claims.
She can accept failed love, a relationship fizzling.
The end is not so awful
when examined with the passage of time.
She does not need the man.
She can excel on her own.
But with soft light entering her room,
and the radiator wheezing as it releases heat,
she realizes no remedy exists
for the empty feeling of being alone
in bed on a winter morning.
So she gets up,
makes a half-attempt to straighten the covers,
then goes out to the kitchen to fix a pot of coffee.
And the tasks of the day will help her
to shake off the loneliness, keep it at a distance,
until the following morning, when the yearning
for someone else nearby will return.
But let tomorrow take care of itself, she thinks.
She resigns to stop wasting time
on these cold mornings, replaying her regrets,
and bemoaning the absence of a man in her bed.

©2017 Francis DiClemente
(Sidewalk Stories, Kelsay Books)

I also wanted to mention that poet Elinor Cramer, author Jo Lynn Stresing and I will be reading from our recent books on Friday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at the YMCA’s Downtown Writers Center in Syracuse. The DWC is located at 340 Montgomery Street and you can find out more information at its website.

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