As far bas as I can remember, I’ve loved when it snowed.  As a child in the city I eagerly listened to weather forecasts that predicted snow was on the way.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that snowstorms reduced the pace of urban activity and served as well to muffle the raucous sounds of the streets.  I marveled at the wondrous designs and shapes of individual snowflakes alighting upon my clothes and how collectively they produced a magical costume change, draping all surfaces in white garb.  Snow tidied things up, covered the irregular discordant features of the urban landscape in a constant, unbroken cloak of white.

Of course my enthusiasm went beyond aesthetics.  I was a kid, so snow meant the possibility that school would be closed, that I could walk to a nearby park and sled down a hill, that I could pack the stuff into snowballs and toss them at passing cars and trucks  and at other kids my age (especially girls).

Even as the snow continued falling I also recognized that its dominance would be short lived, that the city was too formidable an adversary, could not be overcome or neutralized by such a crystalline carpet.  Looking out onto the street from my fifth floor apartment I resented pedestrians walking along on the snow, particularly how their footsteps marred an otherwise unbroken surface and how cars disrespectfully plowed through the white stuff, often revealing the dark, dull surfaces below.  What satisfaction for me when continued snowfall soon covered up these “blemishes.”

Later in life I spent considerable time in the country during winters.  There snow would master the surroundings, transform the landscape for extended periods.  Here snow could land on evergreens and tree branches and create a magical kingdom decked out in winter’s finest.  In these surroundings snow could pile up to impressive depths making snow shoes an absolute necessity.  It could also accumulate on roofs, transforming homes, making them appear ever so much larger.  The country was made for snow; co-existence was possible and to a degree mutually beneficial.

As the years have passed I still delight in snow, but have also come to accept other perspectives.  Snow, especially in the cities and suburbs, is the enemy of order.  Thus, as soon as it falls upon certain surfaces, it is attacked with shovels, snow blowers, snowplows, as well as salt and sand.  It is an adversary to be defeated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.  Snow produces endless traffic delays, accidents, heart attacks, deaths, together with costly clean-up operations.  Childish delight in snow must yield before these sobering circumstances.

Snow in the cities and suburbs inevitably ends in disappointment.  Bright, smooth surfaces, once temperatures rise, degrade rapidly.  Puddles form, slush develops, icy areas emerge and dirt accumulates along the surface.  What is sadder than snow piled up along a well-travelled road or highway?  It is rotted, pitted, horribly blackened, a  far cry from its original lustrous appearance.  What once was everywhere has now shrunk to isolated patches; what was originally  pure and pretty has turned unsightly.  The fond memories of my boyhood remain, but they are now measured against the reality check of adulthood.

Leave a Reply