After a temperate fall in Boone, a cold wind was headed our way, but I had aimed to be ahead of it, preparing to drive south and east toward the North Carolina coast and my new digs in Wilmington.
In Greek mythology, the name of the god of the North Wind is Boreas. He comes blustering in, an old man with a conch shell and fierce intent, icing everything in his path. Last week, as I coordinated with my realtor and with electricians and propane technicians, I was also keeping an eye on the weather forecast, knowing by Friday, the day I meant to depart, the weather was going to change, with temperatures taking a nosedive into the teens by the weekend.
I was down to the wire, getting the house winterized so pipes wouldn’t freeze and burst in my absence, getting the propane heater repaired, having the electrical panel replaced, packing up the rest of my belongings, trying to be strategic as I selected what to load into Roadcinante.
Thursday afternoon I got the last mail that would be delivered to my house and found one of those letters from the NC-DMV that strikes fear into the hearts of every North Carolina driver – “Your license plate has been revoked and you must turn it in immediately” – due to a lapse in liability insurance. Of which there had been none, not even one second.
“But…I’m leaving tomorrow!” I wailed into the abyss, but the abyss did not care. I emailed my insurance agent. I missed her call letting me know there was an issue with Roadcinante’s VIN number, and by the time I got her voice mail, the office had closed.
Meanwhile, sudden weather warnings were coming that the sky was going to open up and dump snow, beginning…Friday morning.
I did not sleep much Thursday night. I kept checking the weather reports, saw around 3:00 in the morning when the National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory, noted that snowfall was to begin by 6:30 a.m., with a possible accumulation of up to 6 inches.
Roadcinante, parked out in the driveway that is halfway up the mountain where my daughter and son-in-law and son live, sat patiently, awaiting her fate.
Recall Roadcinante is a BIG girl and now I have loaded her down with a lot of boxes of books and manuscripts and other heavy stuff. Recall she has rear-wheel drive and on slick snow-covered roads is as likely to become a scarily-oversized toboggan as she is to be a safely managed vehicle. Recall my white-knuckle adventure on the hills way back in northern California this past summer (“From Grade to Grace“). See me becoming ever more panicked.
I was up by 5:30 Friday morning, and it was already snowing, big fat flakes that quickly covered the ground, and blanketed Roadcinante’s windshield. At 7:30 I decided to drive Roadcinante down the steeply winding gravel road and have my daughter follow me to the bottom.
Coming down from their place, I keep Roadcinante in first gear, sliding a tad on what my kids cheerily refer to as “The Death Curve,” breathing through it to keep my cool and making it to the bottom unscathed. Then I ride with my daughter back up to her house and to my Honda Element, Merletta.
Merletta has no issues with the NC-DMV, nor they with her, so I have a legal vehicle to drive into town. Beasley and I are waiting at the insurance office when they open, and the nice receptionist gives me a letter correcting the error. I drive to the license agency which is basically empty because of the snow, and a sweet-faced blonde woman takes the document, taps on her keyboard for about five seconds, prints out another document and hands it to me, smiling as she says, “Here ya go! Merry Christmas!”
I had been all set for a long bureaucratic nightmare. I was ready to cry if I had to. But I am delayed in my departure by a mere twenty minutes. In wonder, I drive back to get Roadcinante and leave Merletta for my kids to use until I come back to pick her up in a couple of weeks. I get Miss Kitty Witty from the vet, where she’d spent the night and gotten dosed that morning with a nice dreamy sedative to help her with the long drive ahead (Miss Kitty HATES being transported by anything with wheels).
The snow keeps coming down, and the roads are slick. I press on past the edge of town. I see a couple of accidents where cars have skidded into each other.
Beasley settles down onto his blanket and goes to sleep. Kitty Witty, unaffected by her injection, howls and cries.
Heading south on Highway 421 I pull into the right lane behind a huge tanker truck. Ahead of us in about ten miles will be an 8% downhill grade several miles long that I am sure is snow-covered. There is a virtual white-out in my rear view mirror as Boreas sends heavier snows in from the north.
I want to be behind this guy in the tanker truck. I can watch for any skidding and adjust my vehicle accordingly. Or so I hope.
Cresting the top of the mountain, just past the exit to the Blue Ridge Parkway and right before the downward grade, with cars and trucks inching along carefully, I take a moment to gaze out over the mountains below, and the view takes my breath clean away – the white snow making everything fresh and new, falling softly on our anxious world, whispering as it traces the tops of the surrounding hills, coats branches and leaves, blankets the ground in a quiet embrace.
I feel an invitation to breathe, to marvel, and I accept that invitation.
I drop Roadcinante to second gear, turn on my emergency flashers, and take my time, thrilling a little at the slight dizzying sensation that comes from driving head-on into whirling snow. Everyone makes it to the bottom without incident.
The snow, much lighter now, continues on through High Point. By the time I get to Asheboro, when Kitty Witty finally quiets, the snow has changed to a cold snapping rain that does not stop until about nine miles from my destination, my friend’s house here in Wilmington. It is chilly when I arrive, and a slight mist is falling. We hurry to unload only what I need for the night. Red wine and a roast pork dinner and conversation and laughter ensue.
I sleep. Beasley sleeps. Kitty Witty finds a spot on the bed and sleeps, but not before giving me the kind of side-eye only cats can give when you have deeply disappointed them. We wake to a brilliant sunny morning.
There are other cats in the house and a small chihuahua named Bruiser. Beasley is a little smitten with him but gives him wide berth, since when they first met Bruiser snarled and lunged to make sure Beasley knew what was what. Now they are fine, and Bruiser trots right under Beasley in order to get at that bite of roast chicken that fell onto the floor. (Kitty Witty, on the other hand, took one look at Bruiser and said to me, “You have got to be kidding.”)
It is Christmas here. One of my roommates, Garry, is a brilliant decorator who has made the whole house glitter and shine. My other roommate, Julie, whose house this is, has given me a room with a deck that looks out over marshy canals.
This morning I watched out my window as the sun peeked over the trees. Later I saw a large white egret come soaring in over the grasses to land in the water. Tall pines reach up toward the clear blue sky. Out on the road Spanish moss drapes graceful live oaks. It is cold here, too, but warmer weather blows in later in the week.
Meanwhile, my work is the same as ever – to tell the world as I see it, to name wonder when I meet it, to invite you to ponder and marvel with me.
With gratitude for your company here, I sign off until the next time. Wishing you bright holiday joy amidst the beautiful deep mysteries of this season.