by Letty Johnson
Because I’ve never been a winter sports participant, discounting making snow angels, sledding and skating as a child, I’ve always viewed snow as somewhat of a hindrance. The prospect of skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing or ski-mobiling do not thrill me and are all well beyond my physical capabilities.
Winter, with its cold temperatures, short days, stormy weather and tricky driving, was always something to be endured and gotten through while keeping one’s vision firmly fixed on the promise of spring, like the proverbial carrot before the horse. I know that Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season…” but I have always felt that winter could be skipped or at the very least shortened.
Perhaps because we’ve had such a steady diet of snow this year, I decided a more positive outlook on the fluffy, slippery stuff was needed lest I fall into serious winter doldrums. Every day it seems more white particles fall from a mostly leaden gray sky. While the accumulation varies from a mere dusting to serious whiteout conditions, some amount of the stuff falls every day.
I must admit I stumbled onto this new attitude about snow quite by chance. I wasn’t planning to have any kind of favorable outlook on snow at all this winter. In fact, I was even a bit perturbed that snow came early and has hung around so persistently. I admit to treating snow like an unwelcome guest that has well overstayed any possible initial welcome.
My new attitude about snow sprang forth unbidden on the Saturday morning before Christmas. Late that morning I was in my kitchen mentally consulting my pre-Christmas “to do” list when the thought hit, like the solitary first drop in a rainstorm. Kerplunk. A eureka moment. Snow is not so bad. It makes winter much brighter. The north and south exposures in my kitchen give lots of natural light. But a gray, snow-less day in winter even with lots of windows is not that bright. Aha! Snow lights up darkness. It makes the daylight brighter and more cheerful.
That first favorable thought about snow was a paradigm shift in my attitude towards snow in particular and winter in general. Since then I have focused on the benefits of snow and have found I can be grateful for snow in a variety of ways.
A winter moon is exquisitely bright when there is snow on the ground. The moon shadows created are of higher contrast and much more intriguing. What other material can make the entire landscape look as though paved with diamonds? The crowd (gaggle, herd, cluster?) of turkeys on Mr. Gladstone’s farm are far more visible with snow on the ground and the comedy of their flight ever more entertaining.
Snow is sculptural. Not only does it cooperate with the wind to create the most pleasing, smooth forms and hollowed crevices, but also its pure, clean covering on our mountains makes their sculptural qualities more visible than in any other season.
The variety of snow is miraculous. Not only is each single snowflake different—how I wish I could see them all—but it falls with incredible variation. Sometimes the flakes are tiny and spaced widely, falling lazily from the sky. Sometimes they are great, fat floating clusters like some kind of heavenly cereal being shaken from a container. Sometimes they fall vertically, sometimes diagonally and with such speed they make the air white. Sometimes it will snow for an hour and leave a mere dusting on the ground; sometimes an hour’s snowfall leaves several inches.
Snow provides excellent insulation for the garden and protects perennials and shrubs from harsh winter winds. When deep enough, it provides insulation for the house too. Shoveling snow is good exercise, as long as you remember to pace yourself and dress wisely. Snow helps keep our reservoirs and streams filled. Adequate snowfall makes the streams in spring more delightful. Snow makes me grateful for the folks who keep our roads and driveways plowed and safe. Snow preserves the tracks of animals—making the loops and whirls of their travel visible.
Snow is peaceful. Sound travels differently, as though the whole world is hushed and waiting expectantly. We have to pause in our busy schedules to hunker down and wait out a storm. But I think the best thing about a snow-laden winter is that without it, the contrast of spring would not be as beautiful!~