Ripley, RIP

Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, XXVII [Book Two], (tr. Cliff Crego)

Does Time the Destroyer really exist?
When, on the mountain, will it bring /
down the fortress?
When will the demiurge overpower this heart
that belongs to the infinity of the gods?

Are we really so frightfully fragile
as Fate would have us believe?
Does the promise of childhood, the depths,
remain later quiet in the roots?

Ah, the ghost of that which is transient;
it passes through the guileless receptive ones
as if it were but a bit of smoke.

As that which we are, the driving ones,
still we are considered a custom of the divine
by the powers which do not change.

Ripley, the snow dog

Ripley, the snow dog

About two weeks ago, Ripley, the snow dog, came into being through an act of love and homage, only to be destroyed shortly after. The destruction was obviously part of the artwork, representing something about the fragility of existence. But “are we really so frightfully fragile as Fate would have us believe?” (Ripley is named after Ellen Ripley, who is Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien films.)

A three-year-old, one of snow Ripley’s co-creators, leaped into her, exploding her material being into a flurry of snow. This took what I estimate as somewhere between 7.5 and 9.5 seconds, just long enough for the horror to sink in, but not long enough to prevent it: A snow dog, who should live a week or two, lasted but a human breath. The demiurge had won.

Ripley's defiance of Time the Destroyer

Ripley’s defiance of Time the Destroyer

Later, however, when I went out to check on the diminishing snow, I looked to where Ripley had once proudly stood. I saw her ears, her nose, her eyes, and her collar. There was even the slightest mound of snow from her fragile body.

Time the Destroyer may yet win this one in the end. But Ripley, the snow dog, lives on the soil and the plants attempting to break out of winter. The “promise of childhood … remains later quiet in the roots.” His spot in the yard will not disappear and his memory is now part of Ripley himself. Perhaps Rilke is right that “the ghost of that which is transient; it passes through the guileless receptive ones as if it were but a bit of smoke.”

First encounters with snow

Preparing to face the snow

Preparing to face the snow

OK, I confess.

All those about me were complaining about the never-ending snow and what accompanied it: bitter winds coming off the ocean ice, people trapped in their homes, snowplows closing off newly shoveled driveways, while burying or knocking over mailboxes, falling on the ice, roofs collapsing, and such. Meanwhile, I prayed for it to continue. I wanted it to be here for my family from Austin who were to visit during spring break.

Front yard

Front yard

They had never seen snow before, at least not of this magnitude. But they prepared as well as they could.

We prepared for the visitors as well. I had stored some clean snow in the freezer for making snow ice cream, just in case the outside quality wasn’t up to standard. We had sleds, extra hats and mittens, and topped off the propane tank. We’d also made a list of indoor activities–the Brio train, the dollhouse, piano, rummy for indoors for inside the house; the visitor centers at the National Seashore’s Salt Pond site and at the Audubon sanctuary, to get out in case of freezing rain.

Out the garage window

Out the garage window

When they came, we took full advantage of the snow. we had snow ice cream in the classic vanilla as well as the maple syrup varieties. We made snow angels and devilish snow balls.

We made a snow dog (aka Ripley), when our planned snow man didn’t cooperate. We also got to see how much fun it is for a three-year-old boy to jump on top of a snow dog and scatter the snow in all directions. And how annoyed his six-year-old sister can be whenever he does something like that.

Frozen Ripley

Frozen Ripley

And we went sledding. There were awards for being the first to go beyond the end of the run into the sand road, for going furthest off the main track, for unintentionally going down backwards, for getting buried the deepest in a drift, and for screaming the loudest.

The visit was wonderful for me, although way too short.

Testing out the equipment

Testing out the equipment

Now that we’ve completed it, I’d like to amend my earlier call for lots of snow. It’s still beautiful to see, but it makes it hard to walk in the woods without snowshoes or skis. I’m starting to tire of putting out a special bin for mail with the mailbox packed in ice. I sympathize with the friend who’s decided to move after five weeks of being shut in. So, let’s have a few more days of sledding or skiing, then move on to another season.


“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight.”

We and all our neighbors have given up on seeing an end to this winter. The mail is no longer delivered because the mailbox is encased somewhere within a large snowbank, well packed by the city snowplow. We know that the days are few until everything will be covered in snow and ice. We resist through cross-country skiing, sledding, or sculpting snow, but we know that those efforts are futile.

Most of the garden plants are deeply buried, but an hydrangea pokes its branches up only to be ice wrapped. What we used to call the front entrance has become a pile of snow. The propane tank is hardly uncovered and accessible as the supplier requires, but our iron sculpture marks where we remember it being. The deck looks like a comfy pillow, rather than a site for cook-outs.

One massive icicle comes off the back roof, drops down eight feet to connect with an ice-encased iron fish, then continues three feet below the deck. It must weigh over 50 pounds.



The blizzard of 2015

View from our bedroom this morning

View from our bedroom this morning

I had convinced myself that buying new X-C skis last fall was going to prevent us from ever seeing snow again on Cape Cod. The ski god must have relented. We may get as much as two feet.

Susan took some photos through the blowing snow. The photo at left shows the view from our bedroom this morning. That light blue is the wall of the small deck, and you can faintly see the metal table and chair.

The garage door to the front porch is the only one we can safely open. But one of the geraniums in the music room is still blooming.

In a few hours a neighbor will come and do a preliminary plow of our driveway. We arranged that in case my eye doctor could set me up with my new, much needed scleral lenses. That’s now postponed until Thursday.

Since you’re getting this, you know we still have power. That may not last all day, since there’s a lot more snow and wind to come. The UPS unit has been clicking on and off as the power fluctuates. Coffee is ground for tomorrow, in case we have to use a camping stove for breakfast. And we can melt snow to flush toilets.

In the meantime, we can ski, if we don’t sink too much into the powder snow.