Monday, November 15, 2010

First snow

Murky gray sky, the colour of dirty steel, settles itself over the day. It is so heavy, it cannot be contained by the upper atmosphere and instead seeps down to the ground, clings to trees, hangs limply over the gravel road, deadens daylight. It carries with it a cloying damp that presses down on everything, absorbs colour, and light, an invisible mist.

The grayness pushes at the windows, an endless twilight, but I stop on my way through the kitchen, drawn to the cold panes by a familiar feeling. I know what I will see before I see it. White flakes move diagonally past the window, sifting gently yet purposefully through the invisible mist, disappearing into the ground.

“It’s snowing,” I half whisper to myself as my stomach does a happy skip. These flakes, falling deliberately from that menacing sky, look like they could mean business. I hurry to get ready and take Murdoch for a walk.

Outside the whiteness of the flakes seems out of place in the gray wash that covers everything, it almost seems unnatural, but in a wondrous way, as though the weighted sky carries a lighthearted secret.

The world is wet beneath this slushy fall that can’t quite decide if it will be rain or snow. Our feet squelch a bit and crunch over the dark brown road as we walk through flakes moving hypnotically downward. The air carries an icy, crisp smell of coming snow and as we wind our way along the trail through the bush, the falling flakes hiss in the grass and make gentle kissing sounds as they patter onto the hood of my jacket.

Mid-walk I am soaked through. My jeans are coarse and cold against my legs, water drips off the edge of my hood. For a moment Murdoch is sprinkled with crystal white flakes that melt slowly to great globes of luminescent water droplets.

By the time we return home we both look like we’ve been swimming. The air is colder and the snow has decided to be snow, quietly clinging to blades of grass. It’s not long before the sun, setting somewhere behind the thick wall of cloud, steals away the suggestion of light it brought to the day. The sky darkens to a murkier gray as the snow flies more seriously past the windows. Individual flakes flash like sparks from a fire as they pass through the yellow beam cast by the light outside our door.

In the morning it is as though clouds fell to Earth overnight. The sky is a flat, shapeless gray while the world below seems illuminated from within, a soft, white glow. Snow covers everything. The world is solid, all reduced to basic shapes, empty spaces filled in. Pine trees draped in heavy white cloaks become looming frozen ghosts, while the black branches of bare trees are defined like sketches by their white outlines.

Soft, muted light brightens the morning. It bundles quietly yet deliberately into the house; windows and walls prove to be no barrier as it moves effortlessly into every dark corner. It should feel cold because of its starkness, but it doesn’t it’s a warm glow as though someone has wrapped a great cozy white blanket around the forest and the light that filters through is quite diffused by the time it reaches our house tucked away comfortably somewhere in the middle.

Stepping outdoors there is a sense of relief in the air, of something anticipated for such a long time finally realized; a release of energy that has left the world calmer somehow.

Even Murdoch can’t completely destroy the serenity of the forest transformed. His black shape moves like an escaping shadow through the bright, muffled silence. He disappears under low hanging branches heavy with snow. Muted snuffling sounds reach my ears instead of the usual snaps and cracks of him crashing through underbrush. When he emerges, his beard has turned white. He buries his nose in the snow and sniffs about almost frantically as though investigating each and every flake that fell.


  1. Wow...Yes to all of that, it was fantastic to see so much imagery and motion contained in the stillness of our first snowfall.

    But I think you forgot to mention all the yellow snow that fell in peculiar spots around here.

  2. I've been alpine skiing since I was 10 years old. I know snow, I am passionate about snow, and the beautifully lyrical world you've created here only reinforces my love of snow. I had an English prof who said that there is just one question to ask of a work of art. Is it alive or dead? Tired and dull art is dead - it converses with no one. This art is alive, for it grows; it comes to life in its dialogue with the reader. It becomes more and more compelling as it is read. The reader wants to spend time with it, to enter that winter landscape. I am very familiar with snow and all of its magic properties and yet this descriptive piece wakes me up. I loved my walk through this landscape of yours - it's real life, true life. I feel it, I smell it, I hear it, I see it. The beating heart of this entry is its beauty of expression, its imagery, its sensuous pleasure - the way the words feel in the mouth and sound in the ear. Read it aloud and "see" for yourself, Heather.
    Examples abound: sky is "dirty steel", the "falling flakes hiss in the grass and make kissing sounds" [marvelous phrase],"soft muted light bundles quietly yet deliberately into the house".
    Elizabethan poets believed that their poetry was not written in words but in musical notation. I find nothing here but musical notes, Heather.