I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where some years, even on Christmas Day, we’d be outside in shorts, flying down the sidewalks on skateboards. Though I’d never lived anywhere else, somehow the heat just seemed wrong, so I dreamed of snow – wondering what it would be like to stand outside and catch snowflakes on my tongue like I’d seen people do in the movies.
One year, we did make a snowman, although technically it wasn’t made of snow. We awoke to an astonishing sight: a thick, white, frozen blanket covered our front yard…just like in our dreams. Unusually cold air had delivered an historic, predawn frost. We thought it had snowed, even though it had been clear all night long with not a cloud in the sky – what did we kids know about what was needed to make snow? All we knew was that it was white and cold: snow. A bunch of us kids scraped the frost from the entire yard and made ourselves a small and very sweet little snowman, which we stored in the freezer compartment of our refrigerator. For months, neighbor kids would knock on our front door saying, “Can we look at the snowman?” We’d take a little field trip to the kitchen, open the freezer, and with tendrils of frosty air pouring out, we’d sink again into our dream of SNOW, until the tragic day that we discovered that water evaporates, even when frozen.
At age 42, after spending my entire adult life in the moderate Pacific Northwest, I moved east to Iowa, which as you may know, is anything but moderate, especially as far as the weather goes. My Iowan friends looked after me and as the first major blizzard approached, one of them called to announce its pending arrival at 2 pm. He didn’t say, “At about 2 pm”, he said “At 2 pm”. “Give me a break,” I countered, “How can you say exactly when the storm will hit?” Where I was from, due to the extremely complex effects of the Puget Sound combined with both the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges, weather reports were almost always just mere suggestions of possibility. “Look at a map…there’s nothing in between Canada and Iowa to slow a storm…they can clock the wind speed and predict EXACTLY when she’ll hit.” And it was true. Two o’clock on the nose, snowflakes began to flutter.
The storm was a “screamer”. Unbelievably high winds careened around any suggestion of an obstacle; all through the night it wailed and all through the night I continued to get up and check the storm as it raged. Each time I looked out at the one lone streetlight, I saw snow swirling crazily, casting an eerie, dense glow through the amber light.
I awoke expectantly that first morning, just at dawn, and was out in it, in the glory of it all, almost before I knew it. Standing outside, the view was spectacular and there before me was wind, frozen in time. Snowdrifts had piled up between the house and the small, rickety old wooden garage, tilted from the force of half a decade of blizzards. I could see where the wind had come charging around corners, squeezing through the slightly angled, trapezoidal space between the house and garage. There were huge tunnels carved out here and there where some small object had caused the wind to shift, bearing down with the force of a freight train, literally moving mountains of snow into ridiculously small spaces.
I made my way toward the garage door, and for some reason peered through a small hole in one of the wooden slats of the old, hinged, double doors locked with a rusted padlock. I let out a squeal and a small clutch of birds took flight. There, on the black-dirt floor of that old, sagging garage, was a snowdrift INSIDE a locked building that had been completely empty the day before. The storm had poured that drift right through the spot that held my gaze.
THIS was absolutely insane. My mind was reeling from the incongruity that existed between the obvious force that had created this interior snowdrift, remembering the screeching howls that accompanied its creation, and the absolute, cathedral-like silence that I now stood within, as dawn moved through its exquisite coat of colors. I laughed long and hard – I could never have imagined that this is what I would receive from my long years of calling out from my childhood heart, for SNOW!