Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, seems nowhere to alight: the whited air hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven, and veils the farmhouse at the garden's end. ~from The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The pond near my house is silent now, its water caught in an icy grip. The lowering gray clouds reflect themselves on the frozen surface except where the broken shadows of stark and leafless trees form delicate branching patterns. The air is as still as the water, and quiet, as though the earth were holding its breath. I stand and idly watch a blue jay forage in the brush. I can smell the coming snow, a faint metallic scent underlying the odor of crushed pine needles beneath my feet. The bird, too, must sense the change in weather for it is searching with gusto, hopping and scratching in the fallen leaves.
Already a few errant flakes drift down, presaging the storm to come. The earth will benefit from a heavy snowfall. I remember winters here as a child, when snow would stay on the ground from shortly after Thanksgiving until the warming April sun melted it into streaming silver rivulets.
Grandpa Gordon, who farmed next door, used to call snow “poor man’s’ fertilizer, explaining to a baffled little girl how it acted not only as an insulating blanket, but contained nitrogen which benefited the sleeping plants. And when all that snow melted, it was as good as falling rain, he told me, quoting the old saying that ten inches of fresh snow equaled an inch of water. (In reality, according to the National Weather Service, ten inches of new snow can contain as little as .10 inches of water to nearly four inches, depending on whether the snow that falls is light and fluffy or wet and heavy.)
Statistics and inconvenience aside, the snow will be welcomed. It’s what winter in New England is all about. I’ve shoveled enough of the white stuff to know that beauty has its price, yet the way the land looks after a fresh snowfall can take one’s breath away. Think how it mounds and heaps and swirls, how all that is bleak and bare and brown becomes magical. Where the sun shines, rainbow jewels are strewn across white velvet, and where shadows wait, the white turns to amethyst.
I want to be standing outside when the flakes fall thickly, whispering down from invisible clouds, dropping on my upturned face like a benediction. I want enough snow to send my sled racing down West’s hill, enough to let my skis glide along the wooded wagon track behind my house, enough to hold me up when I flop down to make snow angels. And when all is said and done, I want the moon to shine a silver path where I can walk at midnight, needing no other light.