It’s snowing in Portland, and everyone is freaking out. People are out shoveling their walks and acting as if it’s now time to dig in for the winter, when really it’s supposed to be rained away in two days. It’s all very dramatic; schools closed early, legislature has apparently ground to a halt, public transit is spotty at best, and all manner of events have been postponed. Quite exciting.
Personally, I’d like to live somewhere with a guaranteed white Christmas. I love the snow. I lived on a mountain for a year and a half, eight feet of snow completely covering my living room window, and I still can’t get enough of it. There’s something about it that beguiles me. I find snow enchanting. It makes everything clean and full of promise. The ugly and mundane is transformed into beautiful and mysterious, all hushed and glittering.
When I was young I wished for snow every winter. We moved around a lot, first on the east side of the Cascades and then on the west, so although I did get my wish while living in such exotic locales as Crane, Oregon and Spokane and Odessa, Washington, once we moved to the Puget Sound area I was often disappointed. Still, when we had it I was in it, sledding, building, walking, and burrowing. Dreaming in the window once I was called in for the night. During one epic storm I built a snow fortress with my best friend in her backyard; we spent all day outside, pressing snow into bread tins and stacking the bricks high. The knowledge that the snow was so very temporary in our sea-level town drove us to stay out until our fingers and toes and noses were numb. A good day in the life of a child.
I took up snowboarding when I was 25. I’d never done any sports before, not in my whole life, and I was terrible at it at first. What motivated me to stick with it was the fact that it gave me an excuse to be in high in the mountains. No longer did I feel the urgent need for snow in my town (although I always welcomed it). I could go to the mountain and frolic to my heart’s content, surrounded by my snow-loving brethren. Since then, I have taken in some truly awesome vistas that can only be accessed by chairlifts and the determined backcountry hiker, and I’m so thankful that I stuck with it. I once sat at the top of a canyon on a bluebird day and watched a shadow sweep across the brilliant snow, the only sound that of a crow’s wings as it passed over me. That moment will forever remain indelibly etched on my soul.
I love the spontaneity and the tinge of chaos that snow brings with it. I’ve had impromptu snowball fights with total strangers, terrifying sled rides down treacherously steep streets with sentries posted at the crossroads to stop cars from running us over, jumped out of a second story window into a snow drift, and done a full and completely unintentional 180 on Burnside and driven off down the road with nobody the wiser. One snowy day here in Portland I was driving down Broadway, and every person I saw was in an almost manic good mood; one lady was standing out on the street with a huge smile, waving to people and handing out brownies. Snow brings a feeling of anything goes, a circus of wintry delights that eradicates rules of the road and breaks down barriers. We are all friends in the snow, ready to lend a helping hand when someone spins out and needs a little push.
I’m watching the snow fall as I write this. The streetlights are on, my neighbors have come home for the night, and the final shouts from the epic snowball battle in the parking lot behind our house have died away. The sky carries the pink tinge of Armageddon, and every surface is cold, clean, and glittering. I should be doing homework, or painting, or anything, really. But all I can do is sit here, snuggled under my blanket, dreaming out the window as the snow falls.