I love the first snow of the year– and by first snow, I mean the first to really stick, turning the world you thought you knew into a blank sheet of paper. It’s especially great when it happens overnight and you wake up to the kind of thick quiet that only exists before people make their tracks and cars their slush. This happened for us on Friday. We hadn’t checked the weather in a few days and didn’t know it was coming, and just the day before a Northern Michigan friend’s Facebook status update (“Eating clementines and watching the snow fall. It must be winter!”) had left me terribly homesick. Perfect timing.
Complaining about winter is socially acceptable, even expected, but I usually don’t. I grew up in Michigan and I like playing in snow. Plus, I thrive on that paradoxical sense of familiar routine and surprising renewal each shifting season brings. The morning of the first snow, you say assuredly, “Ah yes, here it is!” and wonderingly, “What is this? I’d forgotten it was like this!” As I biked to school on Friday morning, I took special pleasure in the way the snow crunched under my tires, though snow always crunches. I braked to watch the way a tree, sodden with snow, curled its black branches a little lower than before, though branches always droop prettily in winter. And I took extra deep, cold breaths.
My first class of the day was seventh grade English, and I changed my lesson plan ten minutes before the period began. It was the first brilliantly sunny day we’d had in weeks and I didn’t want to stay inside. “We’re going on a winter walk,” I announced as I passed out poems to each kid. That announcement got me a standing ovation and a sudden whirl of coats and scarves and feet pounding out the door. Pretty soon my sixteen students, flushed with sudden snow glow and Vitamin D, were standing in a circle reading lines like “One must have a mind of winter / To regard the frost and the boughs / Of the pine-trees crusted with snow…”**
It snows all winter long, and admittedly, especially come March, it can get tiresome. But it only first snows once a year.
**Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”