Whose woods these are I think I know / Because there isn't any snow. Not a flake. Unless you count the fellow who told me: "Get yourself a Chevy Blazer, Mister, or you won't make it up that hill of yours come Christmas, ayaah." Which was nuts, because came Christmas it was 66 degrees in the shade, 85 degrees with the wind-chill factor, and I was jogging up that hill in shorts. Come to think of it, there wasn't any fall here, either. Oh, maybe half a day of orange. What is this state? A scam?

It's no joke to the ski people, ayaah, that's for sure, churning out their artificial snow between prayers that the air will be just cold enough to churn out artificial snow, and telling New Yorkers: "Come on up anyway. There's always cocoa on the stove." As for Lake Placid, they're moving it to Colorado for the Olympics. No, they're not. But that's the rumor. For every day in the sun, there's one more tale of disaster, one more snow job. The fields are green. The rivers flow. Anyone interested in a pair of Rossignol Apaches? No, not Indians. Skis. As in: boots. As in: $70.

"It's never been like this before. It's always snowed by now."

Natives apologize, as if they're to blame. I tell them it's okay with me. I mean, I like snow as well as the next guy, but Im from Washington, y'all, where we scream when we see the stuff, not when we don't. As far as I'm concerned, this is a fuss over nothing. Yet nothing will come of nothing, as Shakespeare said, though he did not say, "Science is the refusal to believe on the basis of hope." That was C.P. Snow.

Unfortunately, hope is all that Vermonters have left. This may be the only state in the union where the TV weather people look abashed when saying "mild and "blue. What in Chevy Blazers is Utah doing with 54 inches? Whoever sang "Moonlight in Utah"? Of course, there are consolations: the roads department has saved $1 million in salt. And you don't need to buy chains. And take that, Iran.

And it's eerie.

It is very eerie, this atmosphere of reverse foreboding about the snow that doesn't fall. That Robert Frost poem I started to fool with -- "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening" -- is about snow and death, about sleepy, snowy death. The speaker of the poem says that he isn't sure whose woods he's in, because you can't tell where you are in the snow; it obliterates boundaries. One land ends, another begins, and the idea of property has no meaning.

Then there's Wallace Stevens' poem, "Snow Man," about nothingness. Then there's Melville's whale, which wasn't made of snow, to be sure, but was white as snow, white being a color of fear, if you get my drift.

Ever been caught in a snowstorm? That's no joke, either. That is how Sir Francis Bacon met his maker, you know -- not exactly in a snowstorm; in a brainstorm, rather. He had one in the snow. So he jumped from his coach. Full of excitement, and ran to a farmhouse and bought a hen, and killed it, and disemboweled the little thing, in the name of the advancement of learning, and stuffed the bird with snow. The first frozen food. But poor Bacon caught a chill, which is what snow will do to you, lord or no lord. And by the time they brought home the Bacon he was nearly as cold as the chicken, which goes to show that being right is never enough, and you can't fool Mother Nature and you ought to wear two pairs of socks and several other things.

Including the fact that if Bacon were alive today in Vermont, he'd be alive today in Vermont. CAPTION:

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