It’s snowing outside. It’s fitting. We went to Snow Farm today for their annual fund raiser of wonderful crafts – glass, pottery, fiber arts, jewelry, some wood and other media – and then up to Salmon Falls Showroom. Coming home over the Mohawk and then Taconic Trails, snow came in great curtains and showers. Of course, I really didn’t want to drive over the Berkshires and Petersburg Pass in the dark in the snow, but that’s how it came out.
I love the first snow. It’s a dreamy message of news that the northern hemisphere is really turning away from the sun and the land and sky aren’t warm enough to make it rain. In the headlights, the flakes swirled and spiraled. In the wind they danced up and out, in and down, suddenly a funnel inward, suddenly a funnel outward, almost as if they were breathing. As we climbed up over the passes, the temperature dropped and even inside the car there was a chill.
But the chill of snow is sweet. Stand outside and let the flakes caress with their softness. Wear black mittens and let the flakes gather on the black. Sometimes flakes are almost ¼ inch across. When they get that big you can see all their crystalline details on the background of the black mitten. Stick out your tongue and let tiny bits of coldness melt there. For the best experience, it needs to be snowing pretty hard – in a soft snow, it all melts before it reaches your tongue. Have you ever stood outside and listened to the snow falling?
A new snow delight is to sit outside in the hot tub while it’s snowing. The flakes melt before they reach the surface of the water, but sometimes will pile up on top of your head. Or make small cold patches on your nose and exposed shoulders. When I was a kid even the meagerest of snowfalls was a canvass for snow angels. It’s something I still do, but not unless the snow is pretty deep. Once in while a flop from the hot tub until 2 or more feet of new snow makes a special snow angel.
This first snow followed an almost first freeze. I forgot to bring my car in a few nights back and when I went to start it to go to the farm in the early morning, it was frozen solid. But this frost was beautiful – frost flowers of all kinds of shapes and swirls covered every inch of my car. So beautiful they were that I photographed them before (sadly) scraping them off so that could see to drive.
The first snow is a message to all drivers that they need to learn to drive all over again, engage in an annual ritual of trial by frost.
The first snow is the harbinger of snow men, and snowball fights, and cross country skiing; the precursor of the Hungerkill freezing over and the ground becoming too hard to work until next year. The new snow is the promise of refilling the water tables in the spring, the promise of benign flooding and April green. The new snow is the promise that the brown of late fall will be hidden behind that white fluff. The new snow promises that no matter how cold the winter becomes, the ground will stay safe and secure, the houses will not need to pump all that much heat in, and that the roses will bloom all that much earlier.
I dream of stripping off all my clothes and running naked outdoors to feel the sting and bite of the cold and the dancing flakes on my bare skin. And just before getting frost-nipped, of running indoors and melting in front of the fire, leaving around me a puddle of that white winter gift. I love the first snow.