Enough snow to fill up the Inner Harbor Essay: Cabin fever, or notes from the inside on what's outside my reach.

January 09, 1996|By Alice Steinbach | Alice Steinbach,SUN STAFF

I need to say this fairly fast because it's been a good 10 minutes since I last shoveled the back walk -- my only remaining link with the World Before Now -- and I need to get back out there. Of course, some people might seriously question why I'm digging out the back path since the only thing it connects me to is my garage, which, by the way, has roughly six feet of drifted snow leaning against it.

But what the heck! I've got to keep some small connection between me and the World Before Now. Why? Because I am an incurable optimist and I believe that someday -- maybe not today or tomorrow or the third Tuesday of next month -- but someday, the snow won't amount to a hill of beans.

In the meantime, just in case I never make it out of my garage and back into the World Before Now, here are some notes from my journal about the Blizzard of 1996.

I call it: "Some Notes from My Journal about the Blizzard of 1996."

Sunday: Awaken at 8 a.m., startled by a strange noise outside my window: the sound of total silence. Scary. I jump up, rush to window and find I have lost my sight. Can see only a wall of total whiteness.

This discovery is followed by two important insights: One, there is a blizzard outside and the snow is banked up against a north window blocking out entire world; two, I have not lost my eyesight.

Turn on television and am reassured when all three stations confirm that yes, it is snowing. And, yes, it is snowing a lot. To my relief, they continue to reconfirm this fact again and again, all day long and on into the night. They show pictures of cars stuck in the snow and reporters standing out on location saying, "It is snowing a lot out here. Back to you, Richard and Marty." Scary.

Had the foresight to lay in supplies and staples for the duration: low-fat sour cream coffeecake, diet cherry soda, low-fat sloppy joe mix, Healthy Choice Chicken Enchiladas, etc. For breakfast decide to treat myself to a pot of faux latte -- hot milk poured into instant coffee -- and a chocolate chip bagel from Greg's. Spirits soar. Decide to take first run at shoveling off walk.

Dress rather smartly, I think, putting on my new Patagonia waterproof cap, bought recently in Colorado, and a forest green parka, size Extra Large, left at home by a son. Mirrored sunglasses and a multicolored neckwarmer finish the ensemble. Looking good! I think, as I head for the shovel.

Alas. Opening back door to get out presents a problem: It's snowed shut. But necessity being mother of invention, etc. etc. I discover that if I lie flat on floor in kitchen and poke long spatula out through crack under door I can chip away at snow.

After an hour or so, door can be pushed open enough to slide through with my shovel although parka presents problem. Too bulky. I change into a sleek raincoat.

Outside it's pure Dr. Zhivago. An ice palace. Russia in the tundras. Serious whiteness. My spirits sink. Think about giving up but memory of how Dr. Zhivago survived walking across Mother Russia in sub-zero temperatures to get back to Julie Christie spurs me on. Am pleasantly surprised when first shovel-ful of snow proves to be light and dry. Spirits soar.

Back in house, drinking coffee and munching a cherry-hazelnut bagel, I learn from the television that the Blizzard of 1996 may prove to be the worst ever suffered in our city. Ringing phone interrupts my thoughts.

Turns out to be a son calling from Japan to tell me he's watching television in Osaka -- where it's already Monday -- and they're showing pictures of Baltimore and saying that the Blizzard of 1996 may prove to be the worst ever suffered in Baltimore. Scary.

As day wears on, realize keeping ahead of the snow is not going to be a piece of cake. Despite shoveling every 30 minutes or so, path to garage is barely discernible.

Decide to watch movie called "Aspen Extreme" on television but am foiled in my attempts by my cat, Fluffy, who manages to escape briefly through back door as I exit to shovel. Fluffy, a large, Maine coon cat, sees the snow, thinks he has returned to the home of his ancestors and makes a break for the garage.

Hours later, when we are both back inside, I carbo-load on sloppy joes, diet cherry soda and low-fat brie before taking one final pass with shovel. Notice lower back is starting to hurt from shoveling.

Medicate myself with two double-strength Tylenol and a Bud Lite. Fall asleep in front of television watching bundled-up reporter standing near gas station saying, "The snow is still snowing out here. Back to you, Stan."

Monday: Wake up from dream that my entire bedroom is filled, floor to ceiling, with snow and the weight of it is crushing my chest, making it hard to breathe. Turns out that Fluffy, in a desperate bid for attention, has jumped onto my chest and is kneading my neck with his huge paws.

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