From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 42
Summer Snowstorm
The morning of June 2, 2006 brought a huge surprise. The peaks of the Apennines were covered in snow! We had missed a freak snowstorm in July of 2001 that happened after we had returned to Texas, so this was the first fresh snow that we had seen since a similar event many years ago.

I’ll tell you what happened in that June way back then. It was summer, and when I awoke, I stared out my window to take in the view, and much to my amazement the mountains in the distance above Montefegatesi were covered in fresh snow. We rousted the children out of bed with the promise of a snowball fight.

“Come on kids, get your lazy butts out of bed. I’m going to clobber you in a snowball fight from hell,” I yelled. At first the kids didn’t believe me, and three out of four turned over and crawled deeper under the covers. The fourth kid went to the window and proclaimed that I was actually telling the truth. There really was snow on the mountains across the valley of the Serchio.

We hurriedly dressed with the warmest clothes we could find and began our quest for the snowfields at about 5,000 feet above sea level, or about 4,000 feet above Gioviano. After many miles of twisting mountain roads, we came upon the snowfields, and the fight commenced. Of course, I was outnumbered four to one and had to admit defeat early on or be drenched with melting snowballs.

The one contest that I do win each time we encounter summer snow, which is usually while crossing Alpine passes, is the barefoot snow walk. We are all required to take off our shoes and socks and either stand or walk in a snow bank. The last person to leave the snow bank is the winner, and I have never lost. I have discovered the hard way on too many occasions that while my feet are starting to freeze, the pain is not too great. It is while they are thawing out that it really hurts. Quite frankly, if I were a little more intelligent and had a little more common sense, I would let the children win and not suffer so terribly after the contest.

In June of 2006, we just enjoyed the view through the windows from our bed and from the terrace of the Palazzo. I have stubbornly refused to turn on the furnaces in either house this year to save on fuel, thinking that summer weather would arrive again at any moment. Now I am not too sure when that might be since the local newspaper stated today that it was warmer in Moscow than in Florence, and the temperature was below freezing in the Italian mountains.

The farmers fear crop failure, as this is the time of year that the cherries, plums, apricots, apples, and other fruits are ripening. I am feeling more sorry for the naked baby swallows that are suffering from the cold than I am for the farmers, since the government will no doubt come to their aid. The baby birds’ parents have to work twice as hard to find insects for them to eat, and I fear that the mortality rate may be very high this year, as we have already found two dead baby birds in the streets of Gioviano.

The excitement of a summer snowstorm is thus outweighed by its associated damages, and therefore I hope that many years pass before we experience this rare event again. I am certain that the farmers and the birds would agree.

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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