Some of you may never experience a first snow of the season where you live. Where snow is a part of life it comes at different times for different regions. Ours came last week. As I gazed out at the falling snow I felt the sense of letting go and settling into the moment that is the magic of first snow.
Any given season has its own magic, but I feel most deeply that of winter. Winter seems to me to be about transformation and hidden mystery. It is the season when it just feels natural to turn inward looking for the hidden places there. A time for reading and studying inside an invisible jacket of silence.
Any terrain is transformed — back yard, wilderness tangle, or junk yard — into a mysterious landscape where wild things can live safe and hidden. Trees become graceful sculptures, whether their branches are leafless or evergreen.
Back in my elementary school days we lived in a tiny lumber town deep in a Montana valley where you had to look high to see the horizon, which was represented by mountain peaks all around. On the first day of school after the first snow, I was walking to school and I noticed that the fence posts had grown about a foot. The kids that I was walking with claimed I was nuts and it was just snow piled up. I didn’t believe them, so I walked right up to the nearest fence post and stuck my hand in the white extension. My hand went straight through.
I carried my wonder with me right through the day and told my mother all about it that night. She said that when there is a storm high above we never see the wind and the snow just drifts straight down to pile up on any horizontal surface. So we had peaceful storms in that valley. Perhaps that was when my association with snow and peace began.
A miracle seldom seen these days is the frost Jack Frost is so famous for. Looking out the window of the tar paper shack that was our bedroom (for my siblings and me), the crystalline traceries on the glass filled my childish heart with wonder.
There is a paradox about winter’s magic, though. However transported I might feel when I’m outside in the snow, my ability to take photos that communicate that magic is … limited. Very, very limited. I take the pictures but I don’t have the skill to capture the actual moment, I need to do a lot of fiddling after the fact to bring up any vestige of what I was feeling :-(. But maybe that’s OK. It forces me to really be present in the moment, which is what winter is really about.
There is another truth for me. I feel safe in winter. When I am in my warm house, I feel the cold and snow acting as another layer of protection. It is as though I’m living inside a snow globe, and I like it!
Do you have a favorite season? What makes it so?