The First Snow
There’s something about the first snow of the season that makes me feel…contemplative? Snug? Nostalgic? I’m not sure the word I’m looking for, really- it’s a combination of all those things.
And not just the first snow, or even the first snow that sticks- it’s got to be the first snow inside December, or all I feel about it is ugh. The ugh of “I’m gonna have to drive in this,” or “That means it’s cold outside.” Not the same complicated, but pleasant, emotional swell.
It’s been like this for all my adult life, but my most clear memory of it is a day during the final week of classes before exams, in my first semester in the dorms at Michigan State. My window overlooked part of the front entrance to the wing, but mostly I had a great view of the trees between the bike racks and the River Trail which bordered the Sanford Natural Area. It was just starting to get dark- that soft, slow way it settles in during winter, without the glorious burst of sunset we see in the summer; and the street lights were coming on. The snow had been falling in thick flakes for about an hour and was sticking, blanketing the bike racks and everything around them. You could tell which bikes had returned recently, and see the tracks of their journey home. But what sticks most in my memory is the amber glow of the streetlights highlighting the still-falling snow between the trees. Somehow, it’s the colors of it all that have lodged themselves most firmly in that memory. The colors and the quiet.
I’m sure that’s part of it: the way that first, real winter snow feels like it brings with it a hush, a soft command to settle in; get cozy.
Maybe it’s from a lifetime of watching the seasons come and go, of watching the signs of their wax and wane…I’ve always felt very closely connected, tuned in to the change; something reflected also in my choice of professional training- seasonal shifts mean a great deal to those in the horticulture industry! I really do not know how I would live in a place with no seasonal change, or just a “warmer season” or “wet season” as the only difference. I suspect my sense of the passage of time would get all wonky and I’d never be able to remember when something happened, since I use seasonal markers like “I remember it being cold enough for coats, but it hadn’t snowed yet, so must’ve been November,” “There weren’t quite leaves on the trees, but the magnolias were in bloom, so probably April,” that sort of thing.
Mostly, though, I’d feel cut off and out of sync. Each season has such a distinct tone, a palette, a scent all its own, and they have marked the turning of the wheel for my entire life. I welcome them each in turn and it brings balance for me, even with chaos reigning elsewhere. The balance feels particularly necessary this year- but most especially the softness, the quiet of the first snow.