There is something mesmerizing about the first big snowfall every winter. The world is muffled, slowed. Everything feels at once more still and more alive. The atmosphere quiets, just before the snow starts. The air seems to be holding its breath. The birds hunker down instead of twittering in the bushes.

And then it begins.

Tiny. Impossibly tiny flakes. It is hard to imagine that something so small can pile up into drifts so large. And yet, it sticks.

You watch out the window as the sheen becomes a glaze, and the glaze becomes an icing, and the icing becomes…what? a whole cake? Layers and layers of fluffy whiteness muting edges, blurring the differentiation between adjacent things. Grass and sidewalk, curb and street begin to merge. Meanwhile, tree branches are each outlined, hardened by the contrast of snow and yet softened too, as it becomes more difficult to tell where the top of the branch ends and the sky begins.

If you walk out into it, you can feel every flake land on your face, individual spots of cold graze your lips. If you listen to the hush and sweep, you will hear the snow — pattering, brushing, falling onto the last of autumn’s leaves — the oak, mostly, or late maple — onto branches, onto lampposts. If you stay quiet, walking and listening and feeling, you will realize, as my daughter said tonight, how very sensitive bodies are. You will taste and smell the air as the cold pricks on your cheek make you feel more alive, grounded and airborne all at once.

In Minnesota, it is still warm (by winter standards) during the first snowfall. At temperatures barely below freezing, the snow is light. It does not squeak or crunch but swishes. It is an occasion for wonder.

This year, more perhaps than any other since I have lived here, it is an occasion for joy.

Having spent so long mostly in our houses, having cared for each other and vaccinated and masked, having foregone gatherings, struggled to support struggling students, and watched our own children flail through a year and a half of schoolwork with none of the social, connected, intimate parts of school…this year, we desperately need a way to feel connected. And so, everyone I know in Minnesota is texting each other tonight, “the snow is so beautiful!”

We are walking with our children and our dogs and our friends. We are walking with ourselves and our thoughts. We are turning our faces skywards and feeling, with our electric, sensitive, oh-so-sensitive skin, the quiet peppering points of cold. We are letting the flakes weigh down the ends of our hair, accumulate in the folds of our scarves and along the laces of our boots. We are breathing in this quiet, magical, beautiful thing. Alone. Together. Reaching out to be sure everyone we love is noticing, witnessing, sharing the solemnity and the giddiness. The thrill of existing within a world so beautiful.

And the snow continues to pile and pile and pile. Softly. Offering us all some softness.

Comments are closed.