On the evening news, everyone was giddy with snow panic. It would have been the same hyperbole if it had happened in December or January, but there was an added layer of surprise, offense and/or betrayal in the fact that the snow, when and if it arrived, would be falling on daphne and daffodils and the early cherry blossoms that opened weeks ago. Personally, I lived in Portland for the long, wet springs not this freakish late-season snow. But there was no such thing as a typical winter anymore. Those days were gone. Tucked on the couch under a sleeping cat, an electric blanket and a thick sweatshirt, I dug my hands into my pockets and thumbed through my options: digust, frustration, depression.
And then I slept the thickest sleep. After a bitter, spiky bout of insomnia the night before, my body absorbed this sweet obliteration like manna. All my cells sighed with relief. And in the morning, I blinked awake with millions of microscopic thank yous osmosing from cell to cell.
By the time I looked out the window, my palm was already warm with a cup of coffee. Flat gray sky, windless air and slow, soft snow that drifted in the air like feathers from a celestial pillow fight (if angel pillows were made of snowflakes). In other words, it didn’t hurt or offend me the way snow usually did. Instead, I smiled at the sweetness and pulled on my boots and hat.
At the volcano/church/park up the street, a thin layer of soft white accumulated on bushes and branches and muddy, unfrozen paths. From the viewpoint at the top, clouds obscured the city. I put in my earbuds to drown out a trio of excited mothers pushing their babies up the hill. I waited for them to pass and tilted my head toward the tops of the dark evergreens. Aching, Icelandic nonsense hummed into my ears.
And the snow feathers fell. A single fluffy clump was thick enough that I could follow its lazy path from somewhere near the tops of the trees all the way down to where it just missed my cheek. Looking up, the air ceased to be empty space. It became a medium through which these sweet icy feathers drifted. It had a shape and a volume and I could sense the distance between myself and the source of all this snow.
I don’t know how long I stood there mesmerized with my chin stretched upward. Was this the magic that people who loved snow talked about? I only stopped when my glasses blurred with wetness, obscuring the trance of cloud/air/tree/snow. The trance of following a fall from heaven to earth.
Tracy Burkholder is a writer living in Portland, OR. Her debut book, I Want More is a lyric hybrid of memoir, poetry and image published by Summerbear Press. Available here.
You asked, “Was this the magic that people who loved snow talked about?”. For me the answer is yes! I’m always astounded by the multiple layers of expression and nuance that come from something so simple: ice crystals in the color white.