A Whiter Shade of Snow


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This first winter out of the city, our relationship with snow has been changing. When we lived in town, snow was a short-lived thrill that soon became something that had to be moved around so that we could move around. The plows would come through and the snowblowers would crank up and before long, there were piles of chunky brown stuff where a soft white blanket used to be. Even the back yard, which wasn’t part of the crazy shuffle out front, got trashed as our hyperactive Aussie made circuit after circuit around the 50 x 50 foot area. Snow in the city meant half a day of cool white stuff and then a long wait until the dirty brown stuff melted. Snow was something to get out of the way.

We still need to get it out of the way, of course, but only to the extent that we can get the cars to move through it. We don’t have a sidewalk where we need to worry whether a neighbor will hit a patch of ice and go skidding down the street. We don’t need to worry about keeping up with the fussy next door neighbor who never had a speck of snow on his driveway (Sue and I used to swear he was in league with the Devil). We don’t have to be concerned that the City will send a crew out if we don’t get the snow off our walk in time, and charge us big bucks for the privilege.

All we have to do is make sure the plow guy shows up when there’s more than 3 inches or so. I’m counting my pennies so I can buy a pickup and plow it myself. And rather than perfectly shoveled sidewalks, all we need is a foot path to the front door, one to the woodpile, and another one to the compost pile.

I haven’t touched a shovel yet this year. When I do, it will be after the pond has developed enough ice that I can shovel off a skating pond. I suppose it would look a little silly to put a shanty on a half-acre pond, but I’m considering it.

The snow has also become a tool to understand what’s going on around us. I have developed a much better understanding of deer movement across our property, and the kinds of critter who are visiting our compost pile. Drifts and snow swirls are telling me what the winter wind patterns are doing. And if I were smart enough to understand it, I’m sure I’d be able to tell something about the types of birds that visit us by the myriad pattern of little spiky footprints around the feeders.

But mostly, the difference we notice on a daily basis is that the snow stays white; a beautiful, pristine blanket that shows an endless variation of colors as the shade and sunlight move across it during the day and that glows with spectral light when the moon comes out at night. As Sue has put it, “Looking out the window is like having a living Christmas Card.”

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