After a night and day of snow and freezing rain, we had a brief respite. Then it began to snow again. Two more inches of fine cold snow. I had to leave at dawn today for a Library and Legislators breakfast and almost didn’t make it because the nighttime winds had frozen the car doors shut. Much gnashing of teeth later I got the passsenger door open, climbed over the gear shift and pretzeled myself into the car.
When I got home the winds were still blowing and the hill was covered with sastrugi, ‘snow waves’ or ‘Lillipution canyonlands’ as Stephen J. Pyne calls them in book The Ice.
The word comes from the Russian Zastrugi, and I guess the Russians would know about ridges and furrows in the snow caused by wind. I came across the word in Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape edited by Barry Lopez. I was looking for a word to stump my friend and fellow word lover, Francis, and I succeeded. I should also say, he remembered it a whole year later when it had long since blown out of my mind.
Home Ground is an engrossing illustrated dictionary (398 pages) of landscape – and seascape – terms from abutment to drumlin to mere to tombolo to zigzag rocks. You’ll have fun looking them up yourself.