Let it Snow...

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MTT News's picture
Matt Geiger

Snow brings with it newness, changing the world so completely in just a few hours that we are forced to actually see our everyday surroundings. And when we see them, we are so often amazed by their splendor. 

I’ve always thought of the snow as beautiful, but really it isn’t the snow at all. The snow is just white. What the snow does is make other things beautiful, draped over them, accentuating their forms and separating them from their functions. I stood in awe of a scraggly bush in our backyard yesterday, amazed at the intricacies of its many tendrils, each one suddenly visible to me because of a layer of ice crystals that had fallen from the heavens the night before. The bush had been there since we moved in, six years ago, yet it was so alien to me, and so exquisite. 

Snow has no agenda, but it changes the world in fundamental ways. A road is no longer a road, and people’s cars slide into ditches, reminding us that our vast transportation infrastructure can go away in moments, thanks to some cold precipitation. 

It transports homes to a different reality, too, enhancing how cozy and snug they are. Look at a house in the summer and you will notice the leaves in the gutters or the chipped paint on the siding. Look at it in the winter, and it’s impossible not to imagine that it is warm and safe, full of families that love one another and play games, watch movies, read books, and cook food in their own little domestic space. It is in the winter that you are struck by the fact that our homes, big or small, attractive or ugly, keep us alive. They are where we laugh, fight and dream up our crazy plans. 

Yesterday we made a snow fort in the yard. It started as a small endeavor, then turned into something more ambitious. I’m not an engineer, and I think planning ahead is usually reserved for cowards and dullards, but even I was caught up in the exciting possibilities of the new structure. The snow was just right for it; a little wet, nice and cold, plenty of it around, not too much dog pee quite yet. Soon, the walls of the fortress began to look truly impenetrable, and when it was done, our five-year-old daughter could stand inside and be completely concealed from the outside world. 

It was so very new, a thing that had not existed, and then suddenly did as the result of three people–a kid and her parents–playing for a few brief moments. 

We humans are happiest when we get to see things, really see them, because most of our adult lives are spent blindly going from one mundane task to another. Our vision, our ability to see pleasing forms and sprawling stories around us, is our greatest asset and adaptation, and yet we are often too busy doing other things to really see anything. Ask me what color the walls in my garage are and I honestly couldn’t tell you, because every day I scurry in and out of that room, always on my way to do something unimportant, with never enough time to stop and look around at those old walls that keep my family safe.

The snow’s greatest gift is to make things new and force us to see them. We love new things. I sometimes wonder if that’s why everyone likes babies so much. People say it’s because they are innocent, or full of potential, but really, it’s perhaps simply the joy of meeting someone completely new. Perhaps it is a pleasure to take in all the details of a human face for the first time, which was created over the course of just a few moments, and one day sprang forth into existence in a world full of blindness; a little, cooing reminder to look around and see, just for a moment.

Or perhaps we love babies because we know they probably won’t complain to us about politics, at least for a few years.

When we begin our lives, we are new, for a little while, and the world takes us in and really sees us, like a snow-covered branch or a perfect fortress in the backyard. 

Then, the fortress descends into gray. The snow falls off the branches. The leaves in the gutters and the shabby siding gradually appear. And we are no longer seen, cast instead into archetypes, tribes and groups; conservatives, liberals, artists, entrepreneurs, idiots, actors and engineers. The snow melts, and we are old, or at least not very new anymore, and we walk through life virtually undetected, even by those who know and love us most. Eight billion unimportant people who are so rarely seen. 

And we know that someday soon the fortress will melt, and even though the water that made it won’t be totally gone from the Earth, it will be so different that we will never recognize it again. 

Until the next winter storm, because snow comes again and again, just as new faces emerge into the world at every moment, a little bit of newness in an old world, a little bit of vision in the darkness. A little bit of light, for just a moment, again and again.

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