Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Oh yeah, Winter
Traditionally on clerkmanifesto our approach to Winter is to steel ourselves for it until we discover suddenly we are in the middle of it finding it surprisingly agreeable. At that point we write a number of glowy blog posts about snow, or how we find the sensation of our nostrils freezing shut to be oddly delightful, or about the convenience of storing freezer goods in the trunk of our car.
But this year Winter, which around here has little to do with official dates, waited respectfully through nearly all of November and then, after a long vacation weekend, began. Suddenly I was out on the sidewalks, with snow pouring down, on my way to the University. I was trudging laboriously through snow or along half cleared walks of such deceiving slickness that every step I took hinted menacingly of disaster.
I have heard it said that the Eskimos have 80 words for snow, but I have never believed it. With no disrespect meant to the Inuit, I believe that if they could have come up with 80 or more words for snow surely we here in Minnesota would have come up with more than one. If it were the sort of thing people do, if "snow" were that language friendly, we would have done some diversifying with it too, at least a little.
But let me assure you, dear Southerners, and others of more temperate climes, one word or 80, there are far more than 80 different kinds of snow. There are thousands of kinds of snow.
Today's snow that I struggled through was called "gravitates to ice", or, as the Inuit call it "aput". And I was not enjoying it. It made my lower back hurt. Every muscle in my legs and spine was fully tensed at all times to move through it without sprawling. Steps all needed to be careful and judicious, and yet if they weren't driving forward my walk would take hours, and I would be terribly late. While vaguely aware of a fanciful world festooned in white and silence, my mind raced on with the kind of angry diatribes at the fates that never make it to blog posts. I picked my careful, difficult path and just barely kept my feet under me.
I was running more than 15 minutes late. The path, freshly plowed, was exposed in its layer of invisible ice. I decided to head off into the powdery snow of a widening strip of woods going my way. I followed a broken trail that dead ended in a snow angel. I walked into the blank and perfect field of snow beyond. I looked up.
It was beautiful. Beautiful! Branches were sketched in detail with a thick hand of white. The grey light was dazzled. The city slept. The trees dreamed. What paradise! What a world of strange confection. What mystery that can bring water to delicate, oblivious, purity.
And then, besotted and recovered, I plowed hurriedly on, trying not to break an ankle or hip for another mile and a half.