We finally got snow this week, just in time for Christmas. Growing up I actually don't remember a Christmas in my hometown when there wasn't snow. I've lived in a few places where snow wasn't a guarantee at the end of December, and like the relentless salmon, I always navigated to snowy home when it came time for lighted trees and family.
This year was a bit strange at first. Not a December drop of the white stuff, only crispy grass and, in a few cases, temperatures in the 50s and 60s. I strung mini-lights on my porch in short sleeves and fought against melancholy. Would the words I'm dreaming of a white Christmas be accurate this year? Would I only be dreaming of snowy blankets? My gift wrapping was lackluster: it just didn't feel like Christmas.
Then the snow started last weekend. Not only were the rooftops covered, not only had the unraked leaves vanished at last, and not only were the newel posts and tree branches layered with a million geometric shapes, but the snow that fell was magical. On Christmas Eve, when guests and neighbors were sleeping, I donned heavy coat and scarf and went out to the street. I stood there alone in the silence of my town and turned my face to the sky. Snow fell like sugar, as though some benevolent giant stood high above scattering handfuls onto my cheeks and hair. I was transfixed, the only sound the icy powder's gentle shushing and ticking as it settled to ground. There were no tire tracks in the street in front of my house, no footprints but mine. Everyone was at home, burrowed under blankets, tamping out fires, tying last-minute ribbons on last-minute gifts as the world outside swirled. Then I sat bundled on my porch and waited for Santa, almost believing that his sleigh might glide by so spellbinding was the night.
Snow, for some, means plowing and shoveling and scraping and slippery rides. Not for me. Winter -- and certainly Christmas -- should not feature orange groves and trips to Disney. We humans need to wind down; we need to witness the cycle of life, the one that begins with falling leaves and concludes with stark, frosted trees. Looking to the sky and watching clouds release their frozen drops is my anchor. When in months ahead the snow arrives in earnest, I'll listen for early morning plows scratching away in the parking lot nearby; I'll notice the muffled rumble of tires on the eastern street, and I'll have boots and hats at the ready. Not all snow is magical, I know that. And just when I've had enough, when I've scraped my windshield one too many times and cursed the next storm front, spring rains will appear and melt the snowbanks away. Then the cycle will click forward, the season will change, and life will start again.
But we are in winter now; and in winter, I say let it snow.