I've been in Washington state now just shy of two years. I moved here on my own from the deep south but that's a tale I've told before (though not here), and will tell again when the time comes. It rarely snows in the south, and on the odd occasion that it does, it either doesn't stick, or doesn't stay around long. As someone who grew up loving the snow, I missed it immensely. It has a way that seems to purify everything; it's the great equalizer, the concealer that makes the less-than-beautiful simply exquisite, sparkling, and brand new. It absorbs the harsh sounds of man but amplifies the calls of the birds and whispering of the wind.
I didn't know how much snow I'd get this winter; I moved to my flat here in the valley of the Sumas Prairie in August. My neighbors insisted that we would see some snow, but not much. A few inches might fall and be gone in a few days. I was ready for that, even though my former residence got quite a bit more than it seemed I would see here. Then again, since my arrival in the Pacific Northwest, there has been more snow than normal for some inexplicable reason. My former landlord/friend/roommate (heretofore referred to as The Froomlord) thinks I have a pretty effective snow call.
December 17 brought the first real snow of 2008 to TinyTown...three or four inches, just as the locals told me to expect. I was thrilled. It doesn't matter that I have no one to go sledding with, or to build snowpeople with, or to help me create a peaceful army of snow angels. I bundled up against very cold temperatures, put my camera in my pocket, and wheeled my bicycle out of my flat and into the pristine landscape. I'm sure I must have attempted to ride my bike in the snow as a child, but I can't imagine that I was any more successful back then as I was now. It doesn't take much snow to create enough friction to make it difficult to ride a bike. With the roads plowed.... perhaps "scraped" would be more accurate...I quickly discovered that there was still enough snow that I had to ride in the tracks made by the few cars that had traversed the side roads of this tiny town.
Does your town have a local eccentric, someone who is often seen exhibiting peculiar behavior? Like, say...riding a bicyle in the snow while laughing out loud at the exercise in futility? I'm fairly certain that that's how the residents see me, the woman who rides her bicycle everywhere instead of walking or driving, who stops every 50 yards to take a picture of something. I'd just about get going well when I'd hit a slippery patch or deeper snow and have to slide to a stop. And giggle.
Though there wasn't a blizzard, there was plenty of snow to cover everything, so I had to take photographs of everything just because it wasn't the same. The house across the street became the subject of a Norman Rockwell setting, a Christmas postcard. My bicycle, its burgundy and pinkness electrified against the whiteness, became my ATV, albeit with a lot of help from me. I took well over 100 pictures of my feet in the snow and the tracks they made, park benches, trees, and snowflakes unable to escape a spider's web. I don't think I've ever been as impressed by the way normally harsh and angular structures were softened by a blanket of forgiveness. The fuzzy edges of everything made the whole world feel insulated and protected. A kinder, gentler place to just be. And I was being...being the only one outside playing and taking pictures and just enjoying the wonder of this event, knowing that, like everything, it would not last. Its permanence would be even more fleeting than the moments of every day because it's not every day it snows like this.
And I was certainly the only person I saw on a bicycle. The people at the post office seemed amazed that I'd ridden my bike at all. When I say amazed, I mean that they looked at me like I'm just not quite altogether there. But it occurs to me...they couldn't be more wrong. For the first time in my middle-aged years, I feel like I'm completely here. Present. What has wrought this change in me; what part of me embraces riding a bicycle even in the snow, and why? That's rhetorical, of course...I don't need an answer. I welcome the opportunity to fully experience events like this, to truly taste and feel and see and smell what life gives us. And what better way to do that than to completely immerse yourself...to jump in with both feet?
Join me next time when I tell you about the Christmas Eve snow, with more pics (and video!) to accompany my verbosity. My favorite irascible curmudgeon has asked me to stop doing my snow dance; he seems to think I have it down to a science. Personally, I think it's a fine art.