Where a soul wanders on a wintry afternoon

January 27, 2000|By Ann LoLordo

THE SPIDER WEBS were dusted with snow. They resembled the prim, white doilies that graced my grandmother's armchairs. Here, in Herald Harbor, snowy spider webs hung from the eaves and door jams of my wood-frame cottage on a gray winter day.

The near blizzard that imprisoned me on this hill above the Severn River roared about my head. It whistled outside my window, reminding me that I was no longer fearless in snow. It inched its way up my doorstep, invaded my screened porch in brazen drifts.

And yet this winter storm also revealed the handiwork of a spider that had spun its way into the corners of my all-too-new-suburban life in Anne Arundel County.

I live 25 miles from Baltimore, but this week I felt as though I lived in a hollow in the Western Maryland woods or along a remote creek on the Eastern Shore. The snow was the only sound I heard when a nor'easter dumped 14-plus inches on Maryland.

Until this year, snow has always been a part of the city for me. An inconvenience but certainly not a hindrance. I'm a New Yorker. Baltimore winters were, well, unremarkable. Certainly nonthreatening. Until November, I had lived the past 20 years only in the city. A winter storm meant nothing more than a slippery 15-minute drive to work or a frigid milelong, solitary walk up snow-clogged Calvert Street.

One year, during the Blizzard of '83, I and several colleagues walked the four miles up Calvert Street to our homes in north Baltimore after work. The camaraderie kept us warm and walking. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and a roommate lit a fire and mixed a hearty concoction of Kahlua-laced coffee, topped with cream, forever known as "The Blizzard."

This week, the snow meant surrender.

I headed for work, against the protests of my spouse. I manuevered my Mazda out the snow-clogged streets of my waterfront neighborhood and propelled it onto the hazy, snowy highway. Halfway to the city, I turned back. The storm had narrowed my field of vision to a crusty strip of glass. I could barely see out the windshield.

I nearly sideswiped a pickup truck. I stopped under a bridge ramp to clean the ice-encrusted windshield wipers and frantically fumbled for the emergency flashers as an SUV (read: suburban utility vehicle) loomed large in my rearview mirror.

White-knuckled, I crept home.

Once ensconced in my home office, I focused my eyes alternately on the computer screen and the gray Severn below my window. I counted the white caps. I noted the snow-wrought facades of the houses across the river.

I admired the snow drifts sculpted like sand on my deck. I delighted in the squirrel skipping across a wood railing. I played Christmas carols on the stereo.

I telephoned friends to get reports on their snow escapades. A college classmate was entertaining six neighborhood children, along with her 12-year-old and 2-year-old daughters. She ate freshly fallen snow topped with Hershey's chocolate syrup. At 44, she slid down a snow-covered slide with her toddler.

She watched a Christmas movie with little ones snuggled at her hips.

I asked her why she decided to host a house full of kids when she could have enjoyed the solitude of a snowy day. "It's more fun with kids," my friend told me.

Alone in my house, I noted her reply.

The snow continued to fall long after my friend put her children to sleep. The wind howled longer still. I wondered if I would leave my river cottage and brave the snowy roads the next morning. I wondered if I would ever eat chocolate-covered snowballs or squeal with delight down a snow-covered slide.

I wondered if I would awake to find a spider web in the snow.

Ann Lolordo is a national correspondent for The Sun.

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