Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The many personalities of snow

Our first meal of fondue this year. 
As a third Christmas approaches without snow I unconsciously started decorating for Christmas in ways I hadn't before.  I've never been one to prefer white or blue Christmas tree lights, but this year our tree has LED lights shaped like snowflakes and normal blue lights as well.  I bought extra large snowflake ornaments at the dollar store to add to the tree and window clings that are snowflakes and there are over 50 paper ones hanging from our ceiling!  (I think we should have a hundred!) And our Christmas tree this year is the most beautiful of any we've ever had (in my opinion) which seems funny to me since I only enjoyed the multicolored ones before.  But it's all because I'm longing so much more this year for snow.

Whenever I mention to people here how I wish for snow they nod and shrug and.. well.. just don't get it.  After all, why would someone grieve about the absence of something as silly as snow?  I think they view it more like rain.. like just something falling from the sky that you can't do anything with except to see from your window as you drink tea and read a book.  I realized something though as I thought about the things I love about winter and snow and all the personalities that the snow and winter has.  It's not an activity here.  Sure snow might be pretty here if it comes at all, but what else do you do with it?  Or should I say, what CAN you do with it when "snow" here is a couple flakes that melt as soon as it hits the ground or freezes into ice sooner than you can put your boots on.

So, here are some thoughts that I've been thinking about snow and it's variations.

I've been enjoying the fireplace through Netflix instant shows.
The "snow man making snow" is the perfect packing kind that all my northern friends will recognize because it doesn't last long.  If at 10 in the morning on a Saturday it's the "perfect snow-man making snow" you can't wait until after lunch to make a snow man!  You've got to grab the moment and enjoy the packing snow! That kind of course can melt or freeze or become the powdery kind depending on the temperature..  it's quite different from the powdery "cross-country-skiing snow" that is light and powdery.  But there are other layers (literally) to snow.  The different layers in a foot or two feet of snow is fascinating... the layers that are crispier (that break like a wafer) or fluffier or denser all add a different experience to walking or playing or skiing in it.  Those times when the few feet of snow is so dense and hard that you can walk on it is always fun.  Even when it breaks and your foot goes down so that the snow comes up over your knee (all the powdery stuff underneath the top layer) is always an adventure.  There's a certain way to walk on it so that your foot won't break it.  I can remember that feeling of walking "just so" so that I wouldn't fall through.

The powdery kind doesn't make a sound when you walk in it for the most part, but there's the more frozeny waffery kind that crunches when you walk in it.  The packing kind tends to make a squeaky sound with each step.  I always thought that was fun.  If the only snow you've walked in has a sloppy slushy sound then you have only experience wet sloshy snow that isn't really "snow" anymore.. it's mostly water.

Gracie was amazed when she touched the star at the top.
I miss the challenge of rolling a snowball as large as I can!  I probably didn't get it bigger than 5x5 ft, but still.. that was one heavy ball of snow!  One year I rolled a ball like that and carved a giant face into it.  I miss going out the back door on a cross country skiing trip.  It wasn't the best place to go, but driving to a friends house to ski worked well too.  I was always the out-of-shape one that struggled in the back, but I was also a bit slower because I kept wanting to stop and look at the scenery.  One time when I got to go down hill skiing at night (I didn't go down hill skiing much) on a ski mountain nearish where we lived (49 for those of you who know what I'm talking about) it was super foggy at the bottom of the mountain where the lodge was, but about halfway up the ski lift you were out of the fog.  The largest shiniest full moon I'd ever seen hovered above the mountain and the deep blue peeks of the mountains all around reached out of the sea of fog like magical islands.  I was transfixed and didn't want to stop looking at the moon and the stars and magical land stretching out in the glowing silvery midnight.  The people working the ski lift wouldn't let me just sit in the snow at the top and look around though so I scooched sideways on my skis about half way down the mountain before having to ski like normal and enter the thick fog.

The most profound times in my life when everything seemed to stand still and clarity and beauty and the wonder of God's creation have happened the most for me were when I was in the snow.  Perhaps that's because it's so quiet.  Not only does it have a personality it has a sound that sounds quieter than quiet.  The sound isn't a sound so much as a muffling of everything else.  As an introvert I crave silence... I had no idea how deep this need went until we moved into a large city on the busiest street by a busy highway surrounded by rows and rows of apartments.  Could we have picked a louder busier more difficult place for me to cope?  Anyway, I miss looking forward to the quietness of snow.

My favorite spot in our house now.
When I was about 11 there was a super long hard winter that year.  You know, the kind you always compare all the other ones to?  Well, this one had four feet of snow on the ground at one time.  Boy that was fun when we jumped off the roofs into it!  Every year after that we'd say, "We only got 2 ft this year, remember before when we had 4 ft?"  (Note, for people who aren't from the north.. when we say we had so many ft of snow it's not the total accumulation over the whole winter.. we just mean how much we had at one time on the ground during the winter.)  There was a moment after jumping off a roof and went up to my waste without touching the ground, that I laid in the snow (a bit hot from playing) and the sun was out sparkling on the snow.  It was like laying in a sea of diamonds except that they were soft as the tiniest feathers.  I looked closer at the frozen snow and could see each tiny flake in perfect detail.  It was so cold that year that the snow didn't melt before freezing.  Each flake landed and piled on top of each other in all the perfection of how they were formed in the clouds.  Time stood still and I felt like I never wanted to leave that comfortable bed of sparkles and wonder.  When the Bible tells us that our sins are made whiter than snow through Jesus' death and resurrection and you are actually looking at the snow glittering in the sun and nearly blinded by the whiteness of it, the profound truth of the gospel is illustrated in an amazing way.  How could the dirty stain of our moldy sins be made to be whiter than that?  It's amazing and true and only God could do that in his creation and inside of us.  These are the things I thought about as I hovered in that moment of wonder.

I call this "snow withdrawal therapy"...
Many a cross-country skiing trip has been the same... with those moments of wonder and looking beyond the tips of my skis to the mountains and snowfall, the majesty and the detail, large and small of what God designed.  I would soak in the quiet and breathe in the cold air and the fog clouding my mind would lift.

I wish I could have spent more time in the snow (in recent years) when we lived in the NorthWest.  For three winters I was pregnant and it made maneuvering in the snow a bit difficult and skiing was out of course at that point.  Then each following year my energy level hadn't recovered enough to do a ton in the snow either, but oh that third year!  Well, I'm at the third Christmas now, pregnant the first year we were here, then recovering from giving birth the second year, and now here I am ready to go and race in the snow with my girls!  Ready for the many personalities of the snow.. to play in and to shovel it and to ski in.  The wonder of waking up to quieter than quiet falling and a blanket of beauty transforming the brown world with sparkles.

The girls were pretending that it was snowing.
I wonder how someone would feel if they looked forward to spring flowers and knew they wouldn't see the bounty they were used to (if any) or someone who is really into a sport and is in a land where that sports season is non-existent or terribly undervalued and not understood.  What is it that you long for each year and crave and celebrate in your own way?  I've always felt this way about snow.  The people who are indigenous to this area tend to act like this, "Snow?  Oh we had that one year.. okay, moving on." Sorry people... I can't move on and not care about it so quickly.  I know you don't get it and how could you?  How could you understand why I would grieve for the absence of something that I'd looked forward to all my life when you've never truly experienced it as I have or looked forward to it in the same way?  How could you miss a dear friend of mine when they are just a stranger to you?  -Someone you've seen perhaps, but not someone you know personally.

It wasn't quiet cold enough for a fire, but we had the sliding door open so we could roast marshmallows inside and make some smores for the first time!  Generally when it does get cold enough it takes me too long to realize it and by then it's hot again.

Check out that smore! 

Maybe you've had a bad skiing experience like my husband did on snow that wasn't right.. aka-frozen hard stuff that you can't do anything with (yeah that's called ice not snow) and don't truly know or see it's many personalities.  Or perhaps you are in a snowy area and are bogged down with the amount of shoveling or driving in it, please stop for a moment and look at it as you did when you were a child.. full of wonder and amazement.  There are those of us who would much rather have the cold and snow (shoveling and all!) if we could only experience all the aspects and flavors of a snowy winter again.

Or perhaps you are like me and far from home and the things you grew up longing for and anticipating and celebrating look different now.  Perhaps you have to come up with new ways to celebrate and you have to learn how to deal with losses that the people around you can't empathize with... It will be okay.. you won't be this sad forever and in the mean time keep looking for ways to enjoy what you have as much as you can.  Sometimes we have to lose something before we can truly appreciate or know what's truly important to us.

In case you are needing some snow therapy here are some pattern ideas to start with.  From this site. 
But first you've got to know how to fold the paper!  Instructions to make paper snowflakes

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