Saturday, December 20, 2008


When I tell someone here in Portland that I am from Northern Minnesota, about 1 out of 3 times, they chuckle like this, "Well, I bet you don't miss those snowy winters, ho ho ho..." I usually deflect this conversation by saying something like "You know, the winters never bothered me, but I really don't miss those big mosquitoes we used to get in the spring..." Then we can be off and running on some conversation about Gigantic Insects We Have Known and I don't have to bore some well meaning stranger with my ambivalent feelings about snow.

Knocking around the woods of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota as a kid, I couldn't imagine life without snow - like you cant imagine life without bread until you develop a wheat allergy, or life without an electric mixer until yours breaks, or life without both eyes until you knock one out. Snow was just a fact of life like food or appliances or body parts. When I moved to the pacific northwest 10 years ago, I did not do what some of my pals from snowy climes do and head for the mountains every weekend for the white. I borrowed rain pants and bought some waterproof boots and just went out into winter like I always had. It was like eating rice bread, or using your grandma's old egg beater that you dig out of the bottom drawer, or figuring out how to walk around without hitting walls even though you have no depth perception. It takes some adjustment, and then after awhile it seems like this is way you've always done things.

We've had a few inches of snow all week and I've been grumbling openly about it. I resent that we have to keep canceling all the fun and meaningful church experiences we've been planning all year. I cannot believe that my son, who loves learning so much, had to miss a whole week of school. I hate the absurdity of getting dressed to go outside when it's cold. And shoveling is just so Sisyphusian. I've mostly carried on, taken Eli to his godmother's house and worked from home or driven 12 miles an hour the 10 miles to my office or visited a few people. But I've been complaining a lot. It's just that everything takes so LONG in the snow, what with all the getting dressed and shoveling a path out to the car and brushing the car off and scraping the windows and trying not to slide into anyone.

We got a lot more snow today. Inches and inches and inches. I refuse to actually buy a sled for E, since "it doesn't snow here," but we found a few pieces of someone's discarded sled at the hill this morning. It was steep and icy enough to work ok, but a nice mom loaned us her extra sled and then when it was time for us to go, she told us to keep it. "I just LOVE the snow! It's so fun! It's so beautiful!" she cried. I grumbled some more, but the kindness of the gift from a stranger did open my heart just a little crack.

It slammed shut this afternoon when it became clear that for everyone's safety we'd really have to cancel church tomorrow. Sunday morning is one thing, but The Longest Night service! It is so magic and now we will have to wait a whole nother year to experience it again!

Well, I cried a little but I got over it, like you do. Then tonight, I took the dog for a walk. It was supposed to be a short one, around the block, but when I got out in it I couldn't stop going. It was like I've been looking past the snow this whole week, not really once actually looking AT it. It was like I forgot how the snow isn't like other weather, how it really changes the whole shape of the landscape. It was like I forgot how luminous it is, so that even on the darkest night of the year, it is so bright out. It was like I forgot the shush shush shush of boot kicking through snow. How could I forget?

Suddenly, out walking with the dog I remembered how I used to meet Katie Lawson sometimes at the lighted cross country ski loop at Lester Park in Duluth. How Katie would pull up in her old station wagon, Do You Hear What I Hear? blaring on her am radio. How we would click into our skis. (I sold those skis to help finance my move to Seattle years ago. How could I forget them? They were so cool - red and white.) I remembered how even with the lights, you could still see the stars so bright and clear overhead. Katie would pull ahead because she is actually an athlete and I would struggle along behind but occasionally get a little feeling like I knew what I was doing, occasionally almost fly.

You know, snow. I don't miss it really. And when I got the dog home, and I watched her pick the ice out from between her toes, I was glad again that we don't live in a snowy climate all the time. But I'm grateful that I really saw it, really saw snow tonight - finally.


Sarah S-D said...

lovely reflection. i'm so sorry things that mean so much got cancelled. any chance you could do longest night on a shorter night? Next Sun is Holy
innocence- also an appropriate day to make space for grief.

or you can just let it go.

glad you saw the snow and remembered.

Songbird said...

This is beautiful, juniper. (Funny how not preaching means we need to write other things, isn't it?)

Juniper said...

sarah - working hard on letting go (easier after a morning of sledding with E!)

martha - you totally have my number - my blogging has so improved since church things keep being cancelled....

Sue said...

Yup, Duluth snow is very similar to my part of the world. Those snowy cross-country ski nights were amazing back in the day. Why don't I do that now? No skis....alas, perhaps I'll find a good second hand pair somewhere...

And you are SO right about the Giant Insects We Have Known. Oh yes, been there.

Purechristianithink said...

I was just talking to another local Portlander-turned-Southern-Californian about the big snow dump you all just got.

Aren't you jealous? she asked.

Ahhhhh. No. If had been next week,yes. But all that work on Christmas Eve stuff only to have to cancel? No. Not jealous.