Let it snow!

Mariko Kato/Flickr

Mariko Kato/Flickr

There’s something magical about snow, something dazzling and out-of-the-blue that carries me back to the distant land of childhood.

The adult me looks out the window at that thick white swirl and groans — oh, the shoveling, the slippery footing, the hideous driving conditions. Piping up in the background, the child within goes wide-eyed, gets rowdy and shouts “Snow, snow!”

I don’t have my Flexible Flyer any more, but it takes nothing at all to remember quite viscerally the running start, the belly flop to the wooden slats, and the half-weightless swoosh down a snow-packed hill.

Sometimes, there were careening, out-of-control mishaps — overturned sleds and tumbling falls, that packed snow forcibly up our coat sleeves and down our boot tops. It could be cold enough to make your wrists raw and your teeth chatter.

I haven’t thought of my childhood sledding hill in a while, but in a heartbeat I can picture it. In a nearby park it stood, a steep pitch falling from a piney woods at street level down to the playground below.

If you were lucky, you’d get down the hill, cross the closed-off park road, pick up a second burst of speed from a smaller hummock, and glide all the way across a stone bridge spanning the stream. It took a keen piece of steering and a shot of courage to go the full distance.

Saskia Heljitjes/Flickr

Saskia Heljitjes/Flickr

The snowmen I remember had carrot noses and eyes of black coal, still a common fuel in the old homes of my old neighborhood. Making snow angels was never so much fun as the year it snowed three feet or more, way over my pint-sized head, and the plows hilled up immense banks of snow against which we fell, arms outspread.

Snow was what we hoped for — a plaything, a reprieve from the routine, a taste of shocking cold. We sampled falling snowflakes as they fell on our mittens, and nibbled at home-made snowcones shot through with colored syrups. A winter without snow was a duller, sadder season; I still think that’s true, and hope I always will.

Today, I didn’t have to get out of bed to see that the landscape had been transformed in the night by the snow fairies. They’d frosted every branch in the maple grove with white icing and weighed down every bough of the spruces with dollops of clotted cream. The humps and dips of the lawn and garden, concealed beneath a thick blanket of snow, reminded me of the view of clouds you have from an airplane.

I may groan and moan (the balky car, the scary driving, the bill from the plowing contractor), but I love the snow still. I love the hush of a snowy landscape under a starry night sky, the squeak of snow under my boots, and the telltale tracery of paw prints left by unseen creatures loping across the smooth surface.

A snow storm is a good excuse to stoke up the fire and turn on the outdoor spotlights to watch the dizzying swirl of wind-driven flakes. Or to fling wide the curtains and let the glare of sunshine on snow fill the house with ethereal light.

Snugger there isn’t than to be safe and warm when the cold winds blow and the snow piles up. To live with snow is to live in a world made pristine and beautiful, new and unfamiliar — at least now and then, at least for a while. Like every other ephemeral thing, enjoy it before it melts away.