At last a white speck, then another, then another and soon a flurry of snowflakes are swirling through the lighted night. Not the large, feathery flakes I had hoped for but a steady snow nonetheless. I poured a glass of wine, turned off the inside lights, plopped on the couch and sat by the fire watching the dance of the snow in the light outside the window.
Maybe I’m just a product of my upbringing — when you grow up in Louisiana, even north Louisiana, snow is an event. I can only remember one particular snow. It was a heavy wet one that came in March and left a whopping three inches — I was 8 or 10 years old. All the other snows kind of mix and mingle like snowflakes in the night to produce one blanket “snow memory.”
I moved to Western North Carolina — to Highlands — in 1986, from Hilton Head Island, which was as far north as I had ever lived. That first winter — with its periods of biting cold and snow and the mountains of plowed snow that stood melting for weeks at road intersections and in the corners of parking lots — somehow seemed a perfect fit.
The next winter I house-sat in Horse Cove, and we got one, two-day snowfall of about 18 inches. Merlin, my golden retriever, and I hiked the Whiteside Mountain trail, busting through waist-deep drifts to get to the overlook where we sat and drank in the quiet white and watched the smoke snake out of chimneys in the snow-covered valley.
I was visiting a friend in Balsam gap when the blizzard of 1993 began one Friday evening. I got up before dawn Saturday to begin my trek back to Highlands, where I was director of security at Highlands Falls Country Club. I was at the top of Cowee on U.S. 441 around dawn. There was already a foot of snow and it was still coming down hard. From the top of Cowee to Rabun Bald was a sea of white, and it all still seemed to fit.
I know there are many who don’t share my sense of wonder and awe with those hexagonal crystals of frozen water. And like most forces of nature, snow can certainly bring its own set of difficulties, inconveniences and in some instances dangers. But if you live in a place where snow is a likely part of your winter (or spring) and you prepare for it and use a little common sense, perhaps you can at least get a glimpse of what Scottish poet William Sharp describes:
“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.”
When Izzy awoke the next morning, there was a mad dash after breakfast to get suited up and get outside. Dad was right beside her. It brings to mind another quote about snow:
“When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels,” anonymous.
Izzy and I choose the latter.