When the snow comes it sits silent, and you want to leave it that way. You don’t want to drive in it. You don’t want to walk dogs in it. You don’t want to open a door to it. And you really, really don’t want to shovel it. You only want to watch it; to observe it, to sit in snow’s company and hear its white muffled mumbles through cozy windows and walls. So, you make the excuses, you make the bargains. Let’s just call into work today, Snow. You look lovely, I don’t want to ruin you with my shovels and tires. I’m sure I would be delighted to tromp around in your freaking cold, wet mass, but I can’t, I have dogs to deal with this morning.
At first my dogs didn’t know what to do with snow. They are from Guam and had never seen snow before. The Hound Beast leapt like a kangaroo from spot to spot, romping through it with wild abandon until she finally seemed to realize that it was cold and then came running back to be let inside, her golden nose powdered white. The Little Beast ( a Jack Russell Terrier ) disappeared immediately, her progress only visible in the way of the giant worms in Tremors ( remember when there was a Kevin Bacon? ) — as a hump of snow twisting and turning with her wanderings. The Gizmo Beast played the old lady and dipped a single paw in the white then headed back to the door. Mr. Guinness plowed through it with authority both stately and chilling to watch. And the Willard seemed not to understand that everything had been coated with cold, wet stuff from the sky at all. ( He’s always been as dumb as a box of rocks, but we love him all the same. )
On certain other planets and moons like Titan it’s supposed to snow diamonds. Hydrocarbons under high temperatures and pressures like those found on Titan turn into crystals in mid air and plummet from the sky. On Venus sulfuric acid rains continually. Corrosion happens almost instantly. Can you imagine such a thing? Think about the umbrella. No amount of down-gortex-triple-layered-arctic-ready coat is going to help you out there. You are as helpless as the homeless man with the thin fleece Sponge Bob Squarepants blanket huddled in the corner between the library and the sidewalk. His silence is a different kind of silence.
The sound of the metal scraping the concrete approaches. A library employee is shoveling the sidewalk clear. The scoop and throw creates a cultural rhythm that modern humans recognize. Even in sunnier climes where a flake of snow has never been seen. Television and movies have educated us all to know the sound of snow being shoveled, but those who have not actually experienced winter will not know the truth of it until they come to live in it themselves.
I tried so hard to describe it once to my neighbor in Guam, who had never left the island. How I missed it. The mountains limned in early morning light. The sharp feel of the air, and the smell — that hard, white smell. How clear everything is when you emerge from the cocoon of your house. And the sound — the undoing of all sound, the absence which creates, the quiet that speaks. My neighbor shook his head in bemusement and headed out in his flip flops and shorts into the torrent of rain. His brother’s house had been flooded overnight, and he was headed over to power wash mud out of the living room.
We arise from our surroundings, I suppose, and carry them with us. I am arisen from mountains. I am fallen from snow. I am surrendered by silence.