far too much writing, far too many photos

Sunday night in Madrid. Early August. I’d always heard about August being vacation month in Europe, but never got what that actually meant until I arrived here July 31st of last year. Literally, half the city leaves until September. Many, many stores close — some for a week or two, some for the entire month. Traffic lightens, thins out. The burg quiets down, life adopts a slower pace. I like it.

The days are often hot, the air usually cools off during the night leaving the mornings reasonably fresh. Most of the time it’s not humid. After years of life in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Boston, this is almost paradise.

I didn’t use to mind summer in the above-mentioned locales. It was the advent of global-warming style warm seasons that did me in, starting in ‘87 or ‘88, when Boston suffered through a succession of summers featuring brutal, intense heat waves. They wore me out. Having spent large portions of my younger years in upstate New York, I’d always felt attracted to the north country — after those first global-warming summers, I began absolutely craving the north. The idea of going anywhere warm and southern became inconceivable. When vacations arrived, I fled to northern New England, the U.K., Ireland. Until I finally managed to purchase a house in Vermont, just outside the Northeast Kingdom. Fifteen or so miles northeast of Montpelier, an hour’s drive along two-lane roads to the Canadian border. Me, out in the country. Looking for somewhere not likely to heat up. (Pause for snorting laughter.)

The first snowfalls arrived in October. A half-inch, an inch, two inches of startlingly early winter precipitation. The snow didn’t last long, but it didn’t have to — those days were the demarcation line. November brought weeks of cold, damp, cloudy weather, featuring men with guns everywhere, observing various hunting seasons. One or the other might not have seemed so remarkable. The combination — together with the termination of all warm-weather activity (in part ’cause of the weather, in part because of the abundance of men with guns looking to use them) — caught my attention. December showed up, tremendously beautiful — bringing the holidays, bringing Christmas lights to the long, dark nights. And during that lovely month the snow began falling for real. In January and February, it came down every 2-3 days, with accumulations of anywhere from several inches to a foot or 18 inches. By the end of February, the roads had shrunk to narrow white passages flanked by mountainous banks of snow and ice.

As I’ve said, in earlier years I lived in parts of upstate New York that experienced serious winter. Long, dark, snowbound months that didn’t yield until April or May. Something about that winter in Vermont affected me differently — the difference probably being me, and the fact of being there solo.

And when I made the crossing to Madrid in the middle of that February, as silly as it may sound, the earth moved. Winter set me up, Madrid knocked me down.

Not a bad combo, that, considering where it left me. (In Madrid.)

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