Magazine article The Christian Century

In Praise of Snow

Magazine article The Christian Century

In Praise of Snow

Article excerpt

Call it a Chicago winter survival skill. Usually by this time you've shoveled enough snow to begin to hate the stuff. So it's time to concentrate on snow's beauty.

And it is beautiful. Sometimes it falls like dust, accumulating like soil. Other times it falls in clumpy, heavy flakes, splattering as it hits the ground. Either way, it leaves that ground white and smooth, trackless and bright with hope of new beginnings. It limns the tree limbs with frosting and makes the power wires glisten with ice.

Snow brings a hush, a muffling quiet to busy neighborhoods. It really does change the world, beveling its rough edges of sight and sound.

Farmers love snow. It is, as my farming grandmother used to say, good moisture. It covers evenly and melts gently, doing little to erode the topsoil.

Dogs delight in snow. Our labradoodle runs and jumps through it, digs into it with his whitening mustache. He eats it like a delicacy, like manna fallen from heaven.

Piled up and slick, snow makes things happen. Stories grow around it. Take these four, chosen almost at random.

My wife was born in late February. She was a tiny baby, carried home in one of her daddy's shoe boxes. She wasn't long home before blizzards hit. Her mother produced insufficient breast milk and the family was running low on store-bought cow's milk. Not to worry--the grocer hiked over snowdrifts and delivered three gallons.

My father had a 1961 crimson-colored pickup truck that he anointed Big Red. He mock-boasted about Big Red's considerable powers for hauling, towing and otherwise performing pickup truck tasks magnificently. At age six or seven I was sometimes al lowed to turn the wheel while Dad operated the clutch, brake and accelerator. On one of my driving occasions, Dad crowed, "Big Red can't get stuck! No, you can't stick Big Red." I begged to differ, cruising along between snowfilled ditches. But Dad kept it up: "No, can't stick Big Red." Without warning, I twisted the steering wheel, and Big Red careened into the ditch, where it was soundly and surely stuck. Dad made me walk the quarter mile to Granddad's house for help.

Another story from the early 1960s: a considerable snowstorm hit the countryside, knocking out electricity. When Mom and Dad had gone through the night with out power and had no word of power being restored for another day or two, they decided something had to be done with the refrigerator's contents. …

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