Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snow what?

My somewhat-waterproof/laughably-breathable jacket covered a layer of wool and a layer of fleece. (Funny to think that within my own lifetime those two words have ceased to be synonymous.) I stepped from the snowmobile path into the wide open field. Mine would be the first tracks to rumple the perfect blanket. Three times already this winter, I've been the first one; the fields and forest patches all to myself. Selfishly I'd set the track-sometimes following proper routes, sometimes diving down ravines or veering off into the trees to follow the footfalls of a fox, sometimes wandering in mad curlicues just so I could admire the pattern.

Some things I've noticed about watching snow fall:

1. Against the backdrop of a windless, monochrome sky and a large, undisturbed field, snowflakes become nearly invisible.

2. But if the fields and sky are framed by forest, a visible band of snow will seem to hover, disconnected from their place of falling and place of landing.

3. The flakes right in front of your eyes will seem to fall much faster than the ones farther out. The same way stationary things seem to move past your car at different speeds depending on their distance from you. So you can change the perceived speed of the snow fall by shifting your focus from near-field to far-field.

4. Depending on the size, speed, wind effect and moisture content of the snowflakes, these are the sounds I might hear when they collide with my somewhat-waterproof/laughably-breathable jacket :


5. I wish I had a microphone inside my hood to record the way the snowfall sounds from in there. I can stand still for long periods of time getting lost in listening to each flake's special sound then broadening my attention to the combined effect of all the flakes landing on my hood and shoulders. (snowy dandruff?)

6. The reason beech leaves stay on the branches for so long during winter is so that we can appreciate the cool sounds they make when hit by different types of precipitation and wind. So, don't let their effort go to waste, be attentive and appreciative.

7. Poofing my whole body down into deep, fluffy drifts makes for the most body-conforming, cozy seat. How can sitting enveloped in snow feel cozy? I don't know, but it does. So there.

8. Nothing in the world tastes quite like freshly fallen snow. If the snow is fluffy enough it doesn't feel like there's anything there until you compress it against the roof of your mouth. I spent most of my walk one day trying to come up with an accurate description for how it tastes. Unsuccessfully. It's like acceptable freezer burn? It's a taste that conjures childhood winters?Imagine if they could make a jellybean that tasted like January snow and you could eat it in August.

9. Lying down, flat on my back snowflakes fall in quiet processions onto me and around me. The flakes seem to fall much slower than when I was standing up; they swirl downward in slow motion. At first, I hardly feel any flakes hit my face and glasses. But as the minutes tick by, my face becomes wet, then cold; it seems like every flake hits me. Snow covers my glasses, water trickles into my eyes.

10. It's hard not to wonder what it would be like to lie there until completely covered by a crystalline blanket of snow, to become part of the pristine expanse of field, all my tracks obliterated.

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