I moved from Indiana to southern California, where people would ask me, with a certain air that suggested they knew the answer, if I missed snow. My yes stunted the conversation. Lest they think I was dangerous, I amended with how I didn’t miss driving in it. But, yes, I missed snow. Those poor deprived people in California could visit snow, but that was not the same as seeing their home and neighborhood transformed by it, not the same as watching from a snug childhood bed, peeking through the Venetian blinds, as snow meandered — or streaked — in the beam of a streetlight, not the same as poking their fingers through the stormwindow slot into the drift on the windowsill by way of morning ablution. And it isn’t the same as arguing with their siblings 50 years later about who shoveled it.
Now I am back in Indiana and this morning I awoke to the first snow of the season. A mere dusting, transient as breath, but there it was. I wonder how many others looked at it and were still for a moment.
Doesn’t the first snow always make us stop?
Yes, we stop partly because of sudden visions of heating bills. But there is also, in that first white, a stirring of childhood awe, a memory: footprints, leafprints, windprints, all left for us to read in a sparkling, velvety silence; a landscape other-worldly, confectionary, phantasmal. There is a blink in which we revisit that, and we stop. First Snow allows it, requires it.
Then the blink is over. Time resumes.
Now the day has turned to night, the snow to mud. First Snow will come again next year. And I will stop again.