Waiting for Snow

Anyone living in the swath of snow now stretching from Oklahoma to Illinois to New York, anyone who still is digging out from the storms that affected hundreds of communities across the country, could be forgiven for calling us crazy.

While they cope with feet of snow and the problem of where to put it, we’re fixated on breathless local forecasters and their obsessive reports on our “winter blast”, a weather event capable of bringing Life As We Know It to its knees. We’ve already received freezing rain. There are suggestions we may receive an inch – even two! – of sleet and snow in a few more days. They suggest we pay attention, and pay attention we do.

Of course we look silly to the outside world, but we know our limitations. Many of us don’t know how to drive in snow. We don’t know how to walk on ice. Our pipes are exposed to the weather and our plants begin to shrivel when temperatures dip below 40 degrees. We don’t have ice scrapers for our windshields or snow shovels for our walks. We don’t carry kitty litter in the trunks of our cars and we certainly don’t have de-icer for locks.  Not only that, we don’t dress right and we get cold. We’re the very definition of “wuss”.

Even the most responsible among us don’t always get it right when winter rolls into town.  We’ve already experienced  rolling blackouts because generating plants failed to meet the demand for power in these sub-freezing temperatures. Two plants went offline because of frozen pipes. Perhaps supervisors should have called in the fellows from U-Plumb-It who are popping up on local news shows, touting the virtues of split foam, newspaper and rags for cold weather pipe protection.

The highway department does what it can, pre-treating bridges and overpasses to help prevent icing. Schools dismiss early and begin late, or cancel classes altogether. People  stock up on groceries and the gardening sorts end up sitting in living rooms filled with geraniums, ficus, schefflera and orchids, looking for all the world like arboreal hoarders.

When the sleet finally arrives, or the snow or freezing rain, there’s nothing to do but wait for it to melt.  Our advantage is that it melts quickly, particularly at this time of year, and in two or three days all evidence of winter will be gone.

In the midst of so much uncertainty and excitement, there are reminders of other storms and other times. Chatting with a postal clerk about the cold and possibilities for snow, I was surprised to hear her ask, “Were you here for the Miracle?” “I was,” I said without hesitation.  In the context of cold and snow, “The Miracle” can only refer to Christmas, 2004. No one living on the Texas coast at the time will forget the experience.

In the beginning, it didn’t seem miraculous at all. There were only a few flakes, lost perhaps, or misplaced by the Storm Gods. Perhaps they’d taken a wrong turn somewhere east of Denver or west of St. Louis and headed south. They should have melted before they hit College Station. Instead, they drifted and swooped, lazed along the cloud fringes and hitchhiked on the wind, finally floating to ground in southeast Texas.

It was Christmas eve. I’d gone with my mother and a friend into Houston, to visit and celebrate with my friend’s mother.  The evening was lovely but long, and when we realized it was well past ten o’clock it was time to go. Shrugging on a jacket, my friend’s mother walked with us to the lobby of her apartment complex. As we said our final good-byes, I glanced through the glassed-in entryway and noticed movement, something in the air. “Look!” I said. “It’s snowing.”

Suddenly oblivious to the cold, both mothers pushed their way through the doors, “I want to see!” said Ruth. She stood in the middle of the sidewalk, looking up at the dusting of flakes and shaking her head.  “My goodness,” she said. “It’s snowing.  On Christmas Eve. I haven’t seen snow at Christmas since I lived in the Panhandle.”

Giggling, we blew tiny flakes off each other’s noses, melted them with our breath and examined them on our coat sleeves, exclaiming over their perfection until we noticed they were melting on the sidewalk. Suddenly afraid we might find patches of ice on the roads, we bid our farewells and headed south, toward Galveston.

In time the snow became heavier, swirling up behind us and blowing along the edges of the road. “It looks like Iowa, ” I said. “It looks like a real snowstorm.”  Slush built, and traffic slowed. Businesses along the frontage roads disappeared into billowing clouds of snow, even as cars were reduced to little more than gleams of red and white light.  We were astonished.

Because of the slow trip it was close to midnight when we turned into the drive, nearly running over a group of snowball-throwing kids. Most of our neighbors were outdoors, frolicking like children.

Annalisa, a Danish woman working in the States who missed her husband terribly, was dressed only in pajamas, a coat and slippers. She was laughing and crying at the same time, telling anyone who would listen, “It’s like home! This happens at my home! I never since coming to this country have had such a time –  it snows now! I call my husband and tell him, it snows like home!”

While Annalisa burbled and the big kids threw snowballs, little ones who never in their lives had seen snow made snow angels and caught flakes on their tongues. The high, thin chatter of the adults was pure excitement. “Look!” “Look at it!” “Can you believe it?”  No one could. There had been talk of “weather”, suggestions that snow might be possible, but no one had expected real accumulation. Now that it had arrived, they couldn’t get enough of it.

Finally, cold, wet and exhausted from excitement, people began to drift away. At home again, I stepped onto the balcony to revel in the perfect silence and admire the flicker and glow of Christmas lights across the water. Swinging from its hook, the oil lamp scattered shadows onto the snow-covered railings and glimmered into the darkness, shining for all the world like a tiny Christmas star.


Everyone tumbled out early on Christmas morning, eager as children, rushing to see if there might be more snow.  What they found left them speechless. The arctic front that had pushed across southeast Texas two days prior to Christmas had left cold air in its wake. When upper-level low pressure arrived in the neighborhood, it combined with the cold air to produce a narrow, 20-mile-wide swath of banding snow that hugged the coast, leaving snow even on the beaches of south Texas. The snow wasn’t simply unusual or unexpected –  it was astonishing and historic. Not since the Great Snow of 1895 had such a thing happened, and there never had been snow in Houston on Christmas Day.

The wonder wasn’t simply that it had snowed. The wonder was that the world had been utterly transformed by the softest, most beautiful snow anyone could have imagined. Surely there are deeper snows, more dramatic snows, longer-lasting snows and more delicate snows, but no snow, anywhere, could be more beautiful than the snow which came to us that morning.  In the few hours before it begn to melt and be marred by signs of human presence, it was perfect. It was, as people said even at the time, a miracle.

Today, whether people use the word itself – “miracle” – hardly matters. What matters is the remembering, and the power of the experience.  Ask someone, “Were you here? Did you see it?” and if they did see it, you’ll rarely get a simple answer. Instead, you’ll hear a story. “I was here.” “I was there.” “I saw it first.” “I woke them up.” “We took photographs.” “We took a walk.” For the people who were there, who saw the Christmas snow covering their beaches or their pastures, drifting across their boat docks or edging their ponds, piled along their fences or transforming their yard, it is the snow by which all future snows will be measured.

So once again, we wait. Knowing well that others have grown weary of winter, worn down by the effort snow requires and frustrated by the disruption it brings, still we remain envious, a little eager, a bit hopeful that the time for our own glimpse of winter beauty has come.

The water lies flat and lifeless. The steel-gray sky, threaded through with streaks of darker cloud, seems to press against the earth. The sparrows have sheltered into the ligustrum and the ducks have disappeared. Even the seagulls are quiet, and the lone pelican who spent his morning fishing the fairways has flown. Only the wind chime breaks the silence, and the clacking of cold-singed palms, shivering and complaining as they wait.

Will there be snow?  Perhaps. Perhaps not.  Still, with the memory of that historic snow, our Christmas miracle, so deeply embedded into our hearts, it hardly matters. The simple suggestion of snow has stirred memories, transporting us back to that time of miracle and wonder, a time when the world itself was silently and utterly transformed

Today, a cold rain may wash the sky. Tomorrow, nothing more than sleet may stutter against the windows, seeking its winter voice. In the end, if it is to be that a tumble of flakes decorates the midnight sky, there will be time enough to stop, to look and to remember.

And if there is no rain, no sleet or snow, disappointment will melt away as quickly as the transient flurries of spring.  After all, having seen one perfect snow, we know that others can arrive – if not this time, then the next, or the time after that. In the end that certainty -and that hope – is proof enough for miracle.

 


 

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  1. I don’t know about the weather where you are, but my (recently transplanted Floridian) son woke up to several inches in Dallas this morning, on top of ice that has paralyzed the area for the past few days.

    I think they’re fondly recalling their little house in Naples right about now :)

    Our storm wasn’t nearly as bad as forecasted, and the snow day was actually a nice break from the regular routine.

    Becca,

    Ironically, Dallas and the surrounding area got the snow that was forecast for us. There were some surprised people in the area, that’s for sure. Now, we just have ice. I’ve been thawing water bowls so the birds don’t break their beaks, and watching the pigeons skid around on the decking and railings. I feel sorry for them, but I laugh just the same.

    There’s not much chance of thawing until the weekend. By Sunday, we’ll be in the 60s, and then swing back down into cold weather, with another chance of snow. Maybe. If we’re lucky. ;-)

    Glad you enjoyed your snow day. I’m glad I don’t have to be out in this ice.

    Linda

  2. As you well know, I was there to experience it myself. Everything you say about it was true. So unprepared were we down in Lake Jackson, that many neighbors with screens over their swimming pools saw them cave in under a heavy weight of snow.

    I was in church when it began — a candlelight Christmas service progressing to midnight. Our minister was painting an analogy using the movie, The Polar Express, when I looked out to window to see the first flakes falling.

    Today, as I look out my window 500 miles to your north, it’s snowing again. Wispy flakes this time rather than those bigger-than-Texas snowflakes I witnessed in 2004. But however packaged, here’s my best winter wishes that some snow arrives on your doorstep soon.

    Janell

    Janell,

    The pools. I never thought about pool covers. There were so, so many surprises with that one.

    You would laugh to see my apartment today. The forecast kept dropping the lows, and I was sure I could hear my ficus crying. In it came – along with everything else. Eventually, I even pushed in my huge, unidentified but really neat cactus. They all may stay in through the next forecast blast in the middle of next week – at least the big, heavy ones. Scooting plants around one inch at a time’s no fun.

    Of course, if we had a real storm there would be terrific problems. You know about Texas and our all-electric homes. Loss of power is the horror. When my cousin outside Tulsa lost power with your most recent storm, he and his family had a generator, propane and a wood burning stove. We’d not fare as well.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing the memories.

    Linda

  3. I’ve never seen snow.

    I now live in a country that does not have four seasons, no winter.

    Your post was torture, but thank you all the same! :)

    Damyanti,

    When I moved to Liberia, it was such an adjustment. Only seven degrees north of the equator, our days and nights hardly varied, and there were two seasons: wet and dry. Here in Texas we have enough change that we at least can tell the difference among the seasons, although sometimes there’s more change than we like. I miss the midwestern seasons, especially the spring and fall, but I’m not sure I’d be willing to put up with the winter to gain them back!

    So nice to have you stop by!

    Linda

  4. The simple suggestion of snow has stirred memories, transporting us back to that time of miracle and wonder, a time when the world itself was silently and utterly transformed.

    The view from my window here in Alvin this morning did not meet the promises of the forecasters…But the memory of the Christmas Miracle is what keeps me hoping each time that they will be right.

    My wife and grown kids were transported back to childhood that Christmas Eve. Dancing out in the back yard as the snow just kept coming down. We built a fire in a bucket and just enjoyed the evening. As everyone slept in for the very first time ever on Christmas Day, I wandered out with my camera to enjoy the “Miracle” alone.

    The only other snow that comes close to sticking in my memory was December of 1972 when I was living out of New Waverly in the woods and we had the same type of late evening snow…Only that one was over by midnight and the full moon came out to turn the entire world magical.

    Gary,

    I’ve heard people talk about the 1972 snow. I wasn’t in Texas then, and missed it. But I do remember snow in moonlight from my growing-up days in Iowa. It is magical – one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

    Another thing I love about such snows is the silence. I had the opportunity once to be in New York City when it snowed, and kept snowing. It wasn’t a blizzard or a terrible storm – there wasn’t even much wind. But the snow kept piling up. In the middle of that city it was as quiet as it would have been in the middle of your woods.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, and for taking the time to comment. Soon we’ll be past all this cold weather, and I’ll be making the trek over to Froberg’s again!

    Linda

  5. Ah, yes, snow in San Antonio. The kids are home from school, Mom and Dad home too. They are having fun.
    Me, memories not so far back of being in Nebraska in the winter. Not fond memories! That is where I was back in 2004.

    Reading your wonderful description, Linda, does make it easier to think about, for a minute or two. LOL

    Sharon,

    Do you remember snow fence? I can’t find anyone who knows what I’m talking about. In Iowa in the 50’s and early 60s, the first signs of winter were great rolls of fence that showed up along the highways. It looked like red picket fencing, only the pickets were wired together. They’d string it along the highway in areas known to drift, after the harvest but before the first snow. The fence would catch some of the snow from blizzards and help keep the highways clear. Well, that was the theory, anyway. I think I remember it in Kansas, too, so maybe you had it in Nebraska.

    I loved snow days, but I don’t remember ever having the whole family at home. No matter how bad the conditions, Dad always made it to work. Mom was telling me tonight about times he’d take the battery out of the car and bring it in the house, to be sure it would start in the morning. It was a different time, for sure.

    Have you seen the H.E.B. “Snow” books? There are wonderful photos from the middle coast – Rockport, Fulton, Corpus. I think there’s even a photo of Cotton’s place in Port O’Connor. I’ll have to look. If you ever see the books, they’re worth having.

    Nice to see you – enjoy the warmer weekend!

    Linda

  6. Hi Linda – it’s good to be reminded of the beauty, when we are so very tired of the stuff, now piled along the streets shoulder-high in places.

    Mary Ellen,

    I do remember the experience of being tired of snow – especially in late February or March, when the best part of a “little snow” was that it covered up the dirty, wasting piles that were all around the parking lots and streets.

    Of course, our endurance test comes in summer, when the heat refuses to break as surely as your snow refuses to melt now. Perhaps it’s good we’re not all required to “endure” at one time. An entire nation of weather-grumps wouldn’t be good!

    Linda

  7. Yes, there is still magic in the snow here, too. The tangle and swipes it causes are a drag, but the beauty rages nonetheless. I was rather suprised that here we were willing to be captives; that is, on Tues a.m. it was pouring sleet and most of us stayed home. Had planned for it. And were ennervated by the sight just outside our windows. If everyone had a warm safe place, if no one had to venture out, how even more beautiful it would be.

    And here we sit, with more snow coming tonight. Nah, we’re not worrying. Funny how the lack of a rush hour makes the thought of oncoming snow so much less worrisome.

    I loved your description of the palms in the cold & snow. There is something about the sound of a palm in the wind that always gets my attention (when I’m near them) – I love it. It’s not a scritch, exactly, or a scrape – it’s…what you said. So, as you wait and hold the memory of that Miracle snow, I’ll bet there’s a certain “super” beauty in everything you see as well.

    oh,

    I’m glad the palms are tougher than many of our plants. We lost many of them in 1983 during a truly terrible and extended freeze, but with this one we’ll have little more than mushy banana plants and damaged foliage on other unprotected tropicals. But yes, the palms – they do chatter to one another!

    Now, it’s breakfast time – the bluejays have come by, calling for their pecans. Next will be the pigeons, and then the sparrows, looking for seed. I see the ducks are out and about, too, so perhaps the forecast for warmer weather is right.

    It seems like the whole world likes to huddle and cuddle when the real cold comes. There’s something lovely about the city itself telling you, “Don’t go out. Stay home. Read. Drink cocoa. Write. Nap. Do nothing.” As you say, even working at home’s a treat. It’s the ones without a home that are so sad – human and animal alike. Thank goodness for the private and governmental agencies that work to provide shelter for those who have none. There’s beauty in that, too.

    Linda

  8. There is something so magical about snow falling on Christmas Eve. If it snows any other day it is a nuisance; a hindrance to getting to work, shops, school. But when it snows on Christmas Eve it is a blessing, a reminder of peace and goodwill, a beauty sent from heaven.

    Reading about the children who tasted the snow on their tongues and threw snowballs reminded me of the heavy snow that fell in the south of the country during early January 2005. (From 1988 to 2005 the average snow around the London area was only 0.7 days.) I can remember the excitement of the children when it began to snow at the end of the school day. They ran, jumped, screamed, or just stood in awe looking upwards. The majority of the children, both English and ex-pat, had never seen snow in their lives. They have, however, seen plenty since 2005!

    I have just realised something profound! I have been saying for a while that any poor weather you get in the States arrives on the UK shores about a week or so later, courtesy of the Gulf Stream.

    A miracle snowfall with you at Christmas 2004 and a surprise heavy snowfall here in south of the UK in early January 2005! There you are – that proves it!

    Beautifully written again Linda. Thank you for a pleasurable read whilst I drank my coffee and nibbled the ears on my chocolate rabbit – don’t ask!

    Sandi,

    Oh, I don’t have to ask about the chocolate rabbit – I know! It’s the perfect conjunction of the Chinese New Year (of the Rabbit), the first of the month (White Rabbits X3!) and Valentine’s Day!

    You’re exactly right about the final track of the 2004/05 storm. It got to the Maritime Provinces of Canada on December 27 and then, as the reports said, “moved out to sea”. As you know, “out to sea” isn’t synonymous with “disappeared”! It’s a familiar pattern that you’ve been writing about as long as I’ve been reading your weather. You look to the Gulf Stream like I look to Oklahoma and beyond.

    It’s really delightful to think of our magical snow becoming your magical snow and of the response being so similar. As I like to say (all too often, perhaps) if we’re going to have to put up with the cold, at least we should be granted some snow to go along with it!

    Happy New Year!

    Linda

  9. Yes, we had the red picket-like snow fences in Nebraska. What I remember was the huge drifts that would form behind them (their purpose). When the highway was finally cleared those backbones of snow would linger for the longest time.

    Somewhere I have a photo of me when I was eight or so, standing on a drift that had formed by the barn. I was higher than the milk cows who were milling around in the curve of snow. Also, our “snow suits” were made from wool and when the snow and ice on them melted after returning to the house and hovering around the cook stove, there was a distinctive smell. lol

    I’ll look for the “snow” books. Thanks for the hint.

    Sharon

    Sharon,

    And mittens on school radiators! The snow would cake on them during recess, and then sizzle away for hours. In good weather we got to “help” clean erasers, but in winter we got to turn the mittens.

    What’s funny is that I remember very few “snow days” – not nearly as many as the times we trudged to school through snow well higher than our knees. And of course we always looked for the highest snowdrifts to climb. Even when I was in junior high and high school we’d walk unless it was just bitterly cold – and we’d carry our skates with us, to stop at the rink in the park on the way home.

    It was such fun! And nobody died, no one got run over, no one froze to death and disappeared until the spring thaw. And everyone knew how to make hot chocolate with cocoa, sugar and milk. No “chocolate-flavored drinks” for us!

    Linda

  10. Beautiful! “…the softest, most beautiful snow anyone could have imagined. Surely there are deeper snows, more dramatic snows, longer-lasting snows and more delicate snows, but no snow, anywhere, could be more beautiful than the snow which came to us that morning.” Just one miraculous snowfall and you’ve learned the language of the Eskimos (Inuit now, since the word Eskimo has become politically incorrect), to distinguish the different kinds of snow.

    Your snow is a miracle indeed, for its sheer gentleness and quiet beauty. I could never have imagined last time I was in Houston with its unbearably hot and damp weather that it could look like this… a different world reflected through your wonderful photos. I particularly like the second last one. It’s the rarity that makes you treasure it more. For us, it’s Indian Summer in the winter time, a miracle just the same.

    Arti,

    The rarity is a factor, isn’t it? Such days are like jewels, set into a band of ordinary days.

    Even the slightly more common occurrences – your Indian summer, the January thaw – are known in weather-speak as “singularities”. In fact, my friend in Montana has mentioned the “August singularity” in western Montana and northern Idaho, the coming of the first cold snap of the season. All of the singularities are weather phenomena that occur with more regularity than chance would suggest, and they’re all extraordinarily interesting.

    Of course, my dear Mr. Eliot knew about singularities and wrote about one in “Little Gidding”. Remember?

    Midwinter spring is its own season
    Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
    Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
    When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
    The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
    In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
    Reflecting in a watery mirror
    A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
    And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
    Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
    In the dark time of the year…

    If I ever put together ninety-six words like that, I’ll die happy.

    Linda

  11. Just when I was about to start whining about this dreaded winter weather, I read your post and had to stop. And smile. And remind myself that snow really is beautiful in spite of all the inconveniences that follow. Growing up in San Diego, I never really experienced much snow (although there are family pictures of snow on the beach in the late ’60s). Born in Ottawa, Canada, I really should be more tolerant of the bitter cold. I now live in Nebraska and I know all about snow fences. :)

    Thank you for this beautiful post. You are an amazing writer.

    Les,

    Oh, my. We all whine at one time or another. I whine in the summer, when the Houston heat becomes unbearable and it seems as though no one’s ever going to turn the oven off. I have a friend who whines in spring because of the pollen, and one who’s morose beyond the telling of it in fall, because it makes her feel so sad. I suppose the trick is to go ahead and whine now and then, but not to let that be the end of it.

    I do feel a bit silly – I never thought to do a google image search for “snow fence”. I suppose I felt that was something so low-tech it wasn’t a part of life any more. But indeed it is, and now I not only have your personal testimony, I’ve just enjoyed some great photos.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, and the kindness of a comment. You’re welcome any time!

    Linda

  12. Linda, as always, your post gives me much to think about and great reason to smile. Although we Michiganders get a tad jaded about snow, I think we want the feeling of joy and anticipation you so eloquently share. And sometimes, it still happens.

    I have to confess I’m no fan of snow, yet there is something anticipatory about expecting a storm, stocking up, getting ready to tuck yourself in for a “snow day.” As adults we don’t get a lot of snow days, but the kids seem to get more than ever. I remember few if any from my childhood. Now, it seems as though if the temp drops, the schools close. Perhaps it is the lack of neighborhood schools, children waiting for the bus can’t be allowed to freeze. Who knows.

    And, I must say, it’s simply lovely. Before all the cars plow through leaving their dark exhaust, the world is pristine and lovely. Everything stands out. Folks go to the yard to shovel — there is a great communal spirit. We check in on those who are older or unable to get about more readily.

    This merry mood fades shortly, and only the winter lovers continue to revel in the snow and cold. But for a brief moment there is shared wonder. Perhaps not so much wonder as having something so rare happen as your Miracle. But we take our wonder where we can get it.

    What a beautiful transport. Thank you!

    jeanie,

    First, my little gripe about those closed schools (which can become a full-blown rant in a minute if I allow it): the nannies among us – the people who are terrified of some combination of risk, litigation and life in the real, physical world – are increasingly cutting our children off from life. And, they’re trying to turn all of us into children.

    As I’ve mentioned, my friends and I walked to school through snow from kindergarten through graduation. No one died. They never found a single body in a snowdrift at the end of the season. No one got frost-bitten, for that matter. And we played outdoors at recess unless it truly was miserable. Now, a friend in snow country reports that her children are forbidden to participate in most of the activities that kept us warm – snowball fights, snow tag, and so on. I suppose they’re going to be making the kids drink green tea instead of cocoa – all that sugar, don’t you know. ;-)

    When it comes to storm preparation and the communal spirit during clean-up, hurricanes and blizzards are much the same. We may get out chainsaws rather than shovels, but people look out for one another – it’s one of the best parts of the experience. I’ve been reading a wonderful blog I just discovered called “Maine Family Robinson” by Gregory Sullivan. One of the funniest lines I’ve found is this: “It was the Maine version of a prank. Instead of vandalizing his house when he wasn’t home, we shoveled his driveway.”

    There’s no question you’ll have more snow – and maybe even a snow day or two. I hope it’s especially beautiful and not troublesome at all. We all could do with a little more wonder in our lives.

    Linda

  13. I understand your excitement; my wife and I have not experienced a white Christmas since we moved from St. Louis MO to East Tennessee 10 years ago… until this past Christmas. It was such a pleasure to once again find a pristine blanket of snow Christmas morning.

    If we get snow at all here it’s generally in February, and is rarely anything more than a dusting.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Allan,

    Part of the eagerness – maybe the biggest part – is knowing that it can happen. When I lived 7 degrees north of the equator, we didn’t spend much time analyzing the possibilities for snow. Of course, it was during one of those years I saw my favorite snowfall of all time – by vacationing in German’s Black Forest. Maybe my friend’s contention that we all experience “weather-nostalgia” – a longing to re-experience the weather we grew up with – is true.

    If you get a bit more this February, I hope it’s lovely and causes no problems! Thanks for stopping by – you’re welcome any time.

    Linda

  14. Your description of snow and the excitement it generates in Texas had me wishing for another storm. Then I remembered that we just got ten inches this morning, added to the eight inches that arrived on Friday. The snow in our backyard is chest deep. It is beautiful when it’s falling, but we’re running out of places to put it. And Texas is such a big place. Does UPS have freezer trucks?

    By the way, your reaction to snow may appear silly to the outside world, but when a hurricane manages to limp its way up to our latitude, the panic that ensues is equally amusing.

    bronxboy,

    Truly, at this point I worry about the thaw more than anything. I hope it comes gradually, or you’re going to have a whole other set of problems to worry about. I know hydrologists in central Canada and Minnesota already are muttering over their charts with the same intensity people in places like Massachusetts are watching and raking their roofs. I saw the phrase “white cement” used by someone in Maine this morning – I suspect I know what he’s talking about.

    In the end it’s familiar vs unfamiliar, I suppose. The one difference between blizzard and hurricane is that with hurricanes, people have a choice: hunker down or leave. I can’t remember ever hearing of someone evacuating for a blizzard!

    Linda

  15. How did you know this is exactly how I have been feeling for over a month now, Linda, just waiting and hoping for more snow…like the snow we had on Christmas day, they say, for only the 6th time in 100 years.

    You’d think Holland would get tons of snow, but not in the mid-section where we live. I watch CNN Int’l and see the snow in the States, reminded that I have not yet had my fill. So I understand this post. It’s only the beginning of February. It’s still possible for that miracle!

    Ginnie,

    And I so hope you get it. I remember well those marvelous photographs of the windmills in snow – if it has to come to one of us, I hope it comes to you. You’re the one wth the ability to capture it with the camera! It does seem ironic that there’s a chance of snow for Atlanta on Wednesday. Ah, well. As my grandmother used to tell me, “Hope for what you want, cope with what you get”. ;-)

    By the way, I finally made my way over and found your answer re: the collages. I need to explore these sites a bit more – there it was, big as life. Thanks so much for sharing the tip. I see you have some new ones up – can’t wait to explore them!

    Linda

  16. Snow in the deep south is wonderful because it is perfect for a day or so, then it melts away. No dealing with giant piles of muddy frozen slush on the sides of the roads and in the parking lots. No neverending piles of wet coats, sweaters and gloves. Just “oh, it’s so pretty” followed by “oh, it’s gone.”

    I love your pictures. Until my mom mentioned snow when she came out of the grocery store in Gulf Shores I didn’t realize it could snow at the beach.

    Kit,

    The ones who tickle me are the neighbors between us – the Cajuns, who come up with phrases like, “Eux, Neaux! Sneaux!” But you’re right. It’s an event, a treat – and a great opportunity for born-and-bred northerners who’ve moved down here to have some fun at our expense.

    The farthest south I’ve ever seen snow is Corpus, although I’ve been in sleet down around Baffin Bay. It’s very, very strange.

    I was so pleased to be reminded of Gordon Lightfoot’s “On a Winter Night” on your blog. I was living in snow country when it was popular, and hearing it again is a different kind of remembering.

    Linda

  17. I think adults can begin to hate winter weather because their responsibilities don’t go away during it. Kids can just wait until their school name comes up alphabetically and get the day off. It’s a little tougher for my kid since her school name is toward the end of the list after someone who works for the network who had too many snow days off from school puts all the schools beginning with “The” under “T”.

    If we grownups can cut back a little on going and doing when possible for safety’s sake, we can enjoy the specialness of a snow day like any kid. I have great memories of snow at all ages. On the other hand, I had a friend whose father ran the plow working for an understaffed road department—I don’t think he even wanted to see a Christmas card with snow on it.

    Claudia,

    Back in the day, we had one school district and no private schools. When one closed, all closed. Now, there’s fussing and fuming when some schools close and others don’t. I’ve heard, but can’t verify, that certain children have argued for changing schools on the basis that “they always get more snow days!”

    You’re right that preparation is key – and staying home, especially for us and especially when there’s ice. We’ve got so many elevated overpasses on the freeways that it can be a true amazement when they ice – not just the accidents, but the simple impossibility of getting up and over them! I think it was last year they were broadcasting footage of great piles of cars waiting at the foot of one of our Ship Channel bridges, just waiting to be able to travel again. I’m not sure even the sand trucks could get up the thing.

    As for your friend’s father – I imagine you’re right about his response. The phrase “enough, already” comes to mind.

    Linda

  18. Vancouver, sitting as it does, on the balmy West Coast (just north of your Pacific Northwest) doesn’t get much snow. A couple times a winter maybe, and it can cause traffic mayhem. If it lasts a week we go into deep shock. I can see the stuff on our North Shore mountains right now, but I also see the snowdrops and crocuses starting up in our gardens.

    I know this is Canada, but we don’t do winter the same way at all. That business last year at the Olympics, when they had to airlift snow to one of our local ski hills? It tells it all.

    But sometimes the snow does fly in the city, and (if you don’t have to be anywhere else but right where you are) that can be magical. The first time I remember the magic was when I was eight or nine, (and it might well have been on Christmas Day). I woke up when a snowball hit my window. Looking out, I saw my very excited six-year-old neighbour, jumping and waving, fat lacy flakes floating down around him. There was snow everywhere.

    We had a Japanese cherry tree growing next to our house. The branches were naturally bare, though now outlined with snow, but one branch stretched up to my window, and there, encouraged into indiscretion by the warmth, were three delicate pink blossoms set like jewels in the snow.

    Shirley,

    I haven’t any idea when I last thought of Ezra Pound – it’s been a while. But your lovely description of the cherry tree and its blossoms, set against the snow, triggered Pound’s lines from “In a Station of the Metro”:

    …the apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

    I do have to smile at your reminder of the Olympic “snowlift”. It’s even more amusing when remembered in tandem with the surplus of ice and snow at last weekend’s Superbowl. I suppose planners included snow and ice as theoretical possibilities, but the best-laid plans, and all that.

    When I was still in Iowa, winter and spring often ended up crossing paths, having to coexist like your mountains and crocuses. For years there was a photo around that showed my mother’s tulips fully in bloom but swathed in snow to the base of their blossoms. The had the appearance of a lovely line of yellow, red and pink votives lined up on the crusty snow. They were hardy, and kept right on blooming until the snow had melted away and they could be fully themselves again.

    Linda

  19. My favorite line –

    “Not only that, we don’t dress right and we get cold.”

    I love snow and never get enough of it, but I live in Virginia. We’re very iffy about our snow. Years can pass with nothing to speak of, and then we’ll get a year like last year. It was snowing every time we looked out the window. This winter has been colder but it brought less snow. The western part of the state gets more.

    Huge, long icicles formed on our house when I was a kid. They fascinated me. We used to get much more snow than we do now. Some winters are ridiculously warm now.

    Your photos are beautiful.

    Bella

    Bella,

    Speaking of dressing right, it’s 27 right now, with a windchill reading of 14, and I’m wearing long underwear in the house. Maybe I know how to dress right, after all. What I forgot to add to my list is “and we don’t know how to install windows”. The draft coming through the window next to me – the one that gives me my lovely view – is necessitating a fleece throw for good measure. I know there are people who like the cold, but if anyone from “up north” wants to complain to me, they’ll get a sympathetic hearing.

    I remember the response of a cousin who moved to Fairfax after last year’s whopper: “We might as well have stayed in Kansas.” Of course the other side of it is the anxiety of farmers, particularly, who aren’t getting the snow they need for moisture. It’s weather. ;-)

    I grew up in a two-story house, and some of those icicles could have been lethal. I remember being told never to play underneath them. The reason Ralphie got away with his “an icicle broke my glasses” story in my favorite Christmas movie is that everyone who lived in such a place knew it was a reasonable explanation.

    Linda

  20. I’ve got a ton of snow and ice stories, but I’ll spare you but for this one which isn’t even my own.

    My neighbor Eugenio, in Boqueron, made his first visit to the United States just before Christmas. He went up with his sister Amelia, whose son was graduating from Penn State. It was the first time Eugenio had ever left Panama which is odd when you think we only live about 40 miles from the border with Costa Rica.

    They visited PA, D.C., New York City and Conn. Of course they caught that horrible blizzard while they were there. First time the poor guy had ever been out of Panama, first time he’d ever been in temperatures below about 65 degrees and, of course, first time in snow. Even though my Spanish isn’t the greatest his stories of his trip were hilarious. He says he’d like to visit the States again, but only when it’s green.

    Richard,

    I wonder if Eugenio was so imprinted/traumatized that every time he hears the word “snow”, he thinks of that blizzard. Every time I hear the word “Paris” my first thought isn’t of Montmarte or the Left Bank or any of that. I think of my encounter with a shrieking attendant in a restroom just minutes after stepping off the train from Dover. Funny how single experiences can become our starting point. On the other hand, I’m glad the experience put him off snow, not the States, just as mine didn’t put me off Paris.

    It always startles me when I meet someone who’s essentially stationary because of circumstance, but it amazes me when I find someone who’s stayed put by choice. I once knew a woman in a small Texas town who never had been to Houston, Corpus or San Antonio, only 90 miles away. She was in her nineties, and never had traveled farther than Victoria. “Why should I?” she’d ask. “I’ve got everything I need here.” And I think she did, although she got a little frustrated with having to wait for books she’d ordered to arrive at the bookstore. She would have loved Amazon.

    I enjoyed Omar’s review. Don’t know if I can top it, but I’ll give it a shot when I finish the book.

    Linda

  21. I remember waking up to see snow in our garden, before the age of ten, when we still lived in England. From ten onwards though, it was summer Christmases at the beach in Sydney, where it never snows.

    Since then, I’ve seen snow a handful of times, but the most memorable was during my first trip to Chile about twenty years ago. It was winter, and we were in the street in an inner Santiago suburb, when snowflakes began to fall. The light snow covered the ground, but within half an hour, it was gone. The only snow you normally see in Santiago, is on the high peaks of the Andes, so this was extremely rare. A minor miracle, then…

    Andrew,

    I laughed at your phrase “a minor miracle”. I had a friend who used that phrase all the time. I used to tell her, “No, a miracle is a miracle. There aren’t any degrees!” Of course, she used to talk about left-over cake, too, and I’d fuss at her for that. To my way of thinking you either have cake or you don’t – but there’s no such thing as “left-over cake”. “Uneaten cake”? Maybe….

    In any event, those light snows are wonderful. They’re like the frosts we experience this time of year. Temperatures are still cold in the morning, but the humidity is up, and early risers get to see a wonderland that’s gone just as soon as the sun touches it. It’s very much a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t kind of experience, which makes it even more precious.

    Linda

  22. Merry Christmas, Linda.

    I was just revisiting your description of the Christmas Miracle as I was posting a picture and story on my blog.

    It was this post that introduced me to your writing. I’m glad I found it…And you. Thanks for sharing.

    • Gary,

      Oh, my. I’m so glad you commented, because now I’ve re-read this and remembered that wonderful snowfall. I swear it might have been last year – I still can remember every detail.

      I must say – the older I get, and the more memories I pile up, the more I understand my grandparents. They’d be sitting on the porch, and one would say to the other, “Do you remember when…?”
      Off they’d go, into the past, finishing each other’s sentences and smiling because they did remember, and the remembering was just as pleasurable as the thing itself.

      There’s no way of knowing whether we’ll get snow this year, but if we don’t – there’s always next year!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the kind comments.

      Linda

  23. [...] Linda has a way with words that I envy and you really should go read her entire piece on her blog… Waiting for Snow « The Task at Hand. [...]


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