I have a couple of friends who are gung-ho on snow but I have an ambivalent relationship with the white stuff. Sure, it’s pretty and yes, it does create a lovely hush over all the world. Kids, of course, still pray for a snow day to release them from the tedium of school and I even confess that when I was teaching for a living, I did, too. I admit that snow can be fun: dogs love to romp in it, pandas can’t resist a good downhill slide on it, snowmen couldn’t exist without it, and what skier isn’t thrilled to make new tracks in fresh powder? Snow even has a rhapsodic quality: who can forget Julie Andrews singing about all those snowflakes that stayed on her nose and eyelashes and all those silver white winters melting into spring—these were a few of her favorite things and I don’t disagree.
But there’s another side—a darker side—to snow. The shoveling of it, the skidding on it, the muck and mess of it. A day or two into a big snow storm and the charm of all that whiteness begins to wear on me. By the third day, I get restless. I go out to the golf course to take a walk and that shimmering white expanse taunts me: no golf for you for at least another week or two. You thought winter was over? Sorry, sucker. That groundhog knew what he was talking about.
Some of us never lose our childish delight in snow. I admire those types but I’m not one of them. I’m fine on the first day of a good snowfall but soon enough, I begin to itch and twitch, the first symptoms of cabin fever. A good book can divert me for an hour or two but there’s a limit to page-turning. I turn on the television and maybe I get lucky and find a golf tournament that transports me to Hawaii or California or Arizona or Florida—anywhere where snow is the last thing on anybody’s mind. But one peek out the window and I’m thrown back into that pile of snow in front of the house, up to my neck in endless winter, dubious of the promise of spring.
Don’t get me wrong. I still can get vicarious pleasure out of watching the grandkids bundle up and head out to the sledding hill, probably all the more because I don’t have to be the one to take them out in the cold. I’ve earned the right to stay home in front of the fire and enjoy the welcome quiet of a suddenly empty house. But by the time the kids return, cherry-cheeked, runny-nosed, and missing a mitten, it will be my job to drop a chocolate bomb in a cup of warm milk and hear all about their eskimo adventures.
In his poem “The Snowman,” Wallace Stevens reminds us of a simple truth: “One must have a mind of winter.” Maybe I do, but only up to a point. Whereas others may dream of yet another foot or two of the white stuff, about this time of year, I begin to look for signs of spring: the first little green shoots that poke their heads up through the snow in my neighbor’s yard, all those geese gleaning the fields in anticipation of their long flight north, the afternoon light that stretches just a little longer each day.
Snow is winter’s fine handwriting. While I appreciate its message, I find myself waiting for a postcard from my old friend spring. But I’ve learned that until it arrives, you just never know so I’ll keep my snow shovel handy…just in case.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.
Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com