My dad dreamed of giving us a white Christmas, though his love of exploration meant that we lived in Saudi Arabia. I’m pretty sure it has not snowed in Saudi Arabia in this archeological era.
Then we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where we would get excited to see a dusting of snow on the hills surrounding Livermore. It did snow once when I lived in San Francisco—February of 1976. At some point after I returned to Livermore in 2001, the downtown merchants’ association trucked in snow shortly before Christmas and dumped it on Lizzie’s Fountain. Livermore kids went berserk making snow angels, forming snowballs, and generally playing whatever kids play in snow. It usually lasted no more than a day—at the most two.
Last year, here in Sequim where I now live, it actually snowed on Christmas. It was my wish for a Bobbsey Twins’ Christmas. It stayed around for two, maybe three days. It never impinged on our ability to get in and out of the driveway or walk to the garbage cans, nor did it cause pipes to freeze.
It looked like we were going to get through this winter without a snow event. There were occasional snow showers, but never enough to stick around. It made me sad. I wanted snow that stuck around—that changed the landscape as I was fond of saying. “It’s magical the way snow changes the landscape,” I claimed with great authority.
And then the snow came.
In February. January is supposed to be the coldest month.
It didn’t just snow, it snowed for two days straight. A relentless, robust infusion that transformed the landscape. It stuck to the ground, piling deeper and deeper, covering our driveway, our car, the roof—the branches of trees bending to the ground with the weight of the accumulation of snow. I sent a picture to high school friends and asked, “Is this what Kilmer meant when he said trees bend their leafy arms to pray?”
They got the joke. Ed Brush’s (our high school English teacher) graphic of the tree Kilmer describes was etched in our minds some 50 years later.
I had no idea that snow was so tenacious. And I think I was a bit surprised to learn that snow didn’t exist simply for my enthrallment. I still marveled at its pristine beauty, but also felt an underlying threat. The pipe in the pumphouse froze. Fortunately we caught it early. Would it freeze again? Would our roof hold? Would we lose power? How could we get out of the driveway and to the store before the next onslaught of snow?
It’s not so much I took it personally as I began to see that snow has its right to be what it is, Bobbsey Twin fantasy be damned.
The snow is relenting. A few warmer temperatures, some rain, some sunny days and the snow is not so ubiquitous. Instead of a pristine white landscape, patches of brown create a contrasting landscape.
But still, the snow persists. In fact, it has started snowing again as I write this post—those big fat clumps of descending snowflakes.
I wanted it to snow, to watch the landscape transform, to help me work my way through a depression I could not shake. I discovered, or rather I am discovering, that transformation isn’t as simple or predictable as I was thinking. There are times I feel sad that the snow will relent, will give way to a landscape that has no snow. I even have some anxiety about what lies beneath the snow. It’s the lot of the poet, the writer to ponder all of the above.
Snow on the roof is also a metaphor for evidence of aging. My depression descended on me after some profound losses and with them, deep disappointment that many things (more than I wished) simply did not turn out the way I had hoped. I spent several nights anguishing, sleeping fitfully and in spurts—mulling over the life I have lived to discern what had I done wrong, searching for ways to do things different as my seventh decade starts to recede in the rear view mirror and my eighth decade is the road ahead.
I will turn 70 in October. I need to write that out loud so I can let it sink in. Seventy they say is the new 50, but it certainly isn’t the new 20. My father died at 77, my mother at 83, my grandmother at 99, and her father at 106. I really have no idea how far the road ahead stretches, but it doesn’t start from 20. It starts with 70, and that has an impact on my choices.
Yesterday, I relented. I got it that the past is what it was and my present is what it is. I actually don’t regret much about the choices I made with my past, despite the disappointment and loss. Mostly I made choices based on my integrity—I loved the way I think it is important to love.
I still don’t know what lies beneath the transforming landscape. I’m not sure what choices lie ahead for me, or how to navigate the economic and physical vulnerability that comes with snow on the roof.
Maybe, just maybe, this relentless infusion of snow is helping me put the past to rest. The silence of the falling snow mesmerizes.