Sunday, February 25, 2007

Minnesota Winter Weather

I am getting tired of our Minnesota winter weather. It used not to bother me at all, but I fear that spending the last seven winters on the Eastern Seaboard, with its milder winters, has made me forget how perilous our Minnesota winter weather often is.

It snowed yesterday--fourteen inches--and it is snowing again today, with an additional 18 to 20 inches expected to be on the ground by the time the current snowfall ends.

Joshua is not accustomed to so much snow, and over so extended a period. In Oklahoma, brutal snowstorms occasionally hit, but such storms are infrequent and not long-lasting. Here, it seems, Joshua has seen nothing but snow since Christmas. He tells me that he wants us to move to the Canary Islands, and no later than tomorrow.

Yesterday morning, after breakfast, Josh and I called my Mom and Dad, and we told them that we were going to go out and do their food shopping for them, and that afterward we were going to come over to their house and stay "for the duration".

We did this for them, not for us. We did this so that we would be in charge of the snow removal at their house, and not my Dad. We did this so that we would be out and about, driving on the treacherous roads, and not them (yesterday, in addition to all of the snow, there was also lots of ice, which even shut down MSP for a few hours, a very rare occurrence).

Josh and I arrived at my parents' house just past 11:00 a.m., and we quickly handed over the groceries and got started shoveling snow. There is a lot of shoveling at my parents' house--the front sidewalks and the driveway, which proceeds from the street to the side of the house to the back of the house. The driveway is a major project, and I wanted to keep the driveway clear in case my parents had an emergency or something.

Josh and I shoveled for an hour, until lunchtime, and after lunch we shoveled for an hour at a time during most of the afternoon. My Dad wanted to come out and help us, and we had to instruct my mother to keep him indoors, using the threat of deadly force if necessary.

Late in the afternoon, while Josh and I were taking a break from the snow removal, my mother asked us "Would you mind terribly if your father and I skipped tonight's concert?"

She was referring to a concert by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Before Christmas, Josh and I had agreed to accompany my parents to a Beethoven/Sibelius concert by the Minnesota Orchestra (we all attended that concert three weeks ago), and my parents had agreed to accompany Josh and me to a Schoenberg/Mahler concert by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

I don't think my parents wanted to go out last night and hazard the freeways to Saint Paul--they had been watching weather developments on television, and observing the poor condition of the roads on local news bulletins (the plows were having a hard time keeping up with the snow, just like Josh and I seemed to be fighting a losing battle with the driveway)--and I could sympathize with that.

I turned to Josh and I asked him "What do you say? Do you want to stay in tonight?"

"Yes, I do" was his instant response. So, with that, we all decided to skip the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concert.

The program was a good one--Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, followed by the reduced orchestration of Mahler's "Das Lied Von Der Erde"--but I fear it may not have been worth fighting our way to Saint Paul. We would have been worrying about getting to Saint Paul safely, and then we would have been worrying about getting home safely. It simply did not seem to be worth all the effort and trouble and worry.

In any case, I am not confident that we missed a particularly distinguished concert. Three professional musicians who attend our church, and whose opinions I greatly respect, had attended Thursday night's presentation of the same program, and they had provided us with extremely negative reports about the concert. According to all three musicians, the conductor, Douglas Boyd, had not been a satisfactory conductor of Schoenberg or Mahler, and the singers, Monica Groop and Vinson Cole, had been distinctly unimpressive. All three musicians told us that the concert had greatly disappointed them.

(Today, I see that the "Pioneer Press" gave the concert an extremely unfavorable notice. No review has appeared yet in the "Star Tribune".)

Further, my parents had just attended a Minnesota Orchestra concert the previous evening, and it just did not seem to be the right thing to do to go to the Saint Paul concert.

So we stayed home last night, and we had an excellent dinner (at my mother's house, is there any other kind?). My mother prepared stuffed pork chops, and potatoes au gratin, and homemade applesauce, and lima beans and corn and carrots, and a special cole slaw (my mother must have 30 different recipes for preparing cole slaw, all of which are magnificent). For dessert, she made a cherry cobbler for us, and we ate that with ice cream.

After dinner, my father said to me "Why don't you go pick out some CD's to listen to? If you want, play for us the pieces we were going to hear tonight."

And that is precisely what I did. I selected Simon Rattle's version of the Schoenberg on EMI, as it is the finest I have ever heard (I do not normally care for Rattle performances, and this excellent version truly surprised me the first time I heard it) and I selected the Haitink version of the Mahler on Philips, with James King and Janet Baker, as it is my father's favorite version of the Mahler (I am partial to the Fritz Reiner recording myself, a version which everyone else on the planet seems to hate).

And we sat and we listened to the Schoenberg twice, and then we listened to the Mahler. Of course, the Mahler we heard was the full orchestral version, not the version with the reduced orchestration that the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra was to play. And we enjoyed the music very much. Josh was overwhelmed by the Mahler, which he had never heard before. I am glad that he liked it so much. We shall have to listen to it again soon.

I think that we made the right decision to stay home last night. We had a lovely evening, and I do not think that we would have had a better time in Saint Paul.

Very early this morning, I rose by myself, and I went outside to do more shoveling, in case my parents wanted to go to church this morning. After only a couple of minutes, I noticed that someone was turning the outside deck lights on and off, which is a sign to come indoors. I walked up onto the deck, and through the glass doors I could see my father standing in the kitchen, watching me.

He motioned for me to come inside, so I stepped into the kitchen.

"Your mother and I are not going to go to church this morning" he said to me. "It's supposed to snow twenty more inches."

"I thought you were going to tell me that I was making too much noise" I answered. "I was trying to be very quiet."

"I heard you get up and go downstairs, and I knew what you were up to" my father responded. "There's no need for you to be out there now, this early. Stay inside."

"Let me stay out for another twenty minutes, so at least the dog can get his exercise" I said. "Then I'll come in, and we can have coffee together."

So I went back outside and I shoveled for another twenty minutes. As I shoveled, the dog ran around the back yard, excited, jumping around on the snow. Every few minutes, he would come over to me and jump on me and lick my face, and I would pet him until he wanted to go back and jump around in the snow again.

When he seemed to have had enough fun, I went back inside, and I saw that my father was back in the kitchen, and that coffee had been made. We gave the dog his breakfast, and we sat and drank coffee until Josh and my mother came down to the kitchen.

"No church today" I told Josh. "My parents are staying in."

And we have stayed home all day today. After breakfast, Josh and I went outside and shoveled again, for an hour at a time.

My mother made us a chicken chowder for lunch, and after lunch we went outside again, and shoveled for an hour at a time the rest of the afternoon.

My mother is preparing a pot roast for dinner. It is dark now, and we are done shoveling for the day.

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