Saturday, February 25, 2006

Snow

I was walking along the bend in the creek when it happened – the snow, I mean – and I stopped to watch it as it fell. From where I stood on the shore, the water rushed toward me over the smooth gray rocks of the creek bed, turned right and forged ahead behind me on its way to Cayuga Lake. I looked around. There was something about the woods that afternoon, a sort of autumness that was out of touch with the season, which was winter. The trees were bare; frost still clung to some of the gorge walls; and my favorite spot in these woods, that cathedral of ice that sat on the opposite shore of the creek [pictured], remained unscathed by the recent warm spell that had melted all the snow on the ground.

But there were poignant counterpoints to all this wintriness. Take, for instance, the brown leaf-ridden paths below my feet. Or the glow of bare, raw earth like dusk on everything. The breeze spoke of autumn too, gliding over me with that familiar whisper of slow decay, and carrying with it, it seemed, the scent of fall colors.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me that a winter shower might suddenly fall on such a scene. Or that I would be chosen as the solitary witness to this little joke nature played on itself. Yet there I was, standing on the shore of the creek as the snow came suddenly down and without hesitation, a mute spectacle of whiteness.

It came down in torrents, the snow, like – (oh I don’t know; I’m tempted to write “like confetti over the Yankees on Broadway in October,” but, really, who wants to hear that? Or I could say “like dandruff from the mighty shoulders of the Lord,” but then again what kind of god would be plagued by dry scalp? “Like a scene in a snow globe” might work, because-is-art-imitating-life-or-life-imitating- art-oh-I'm-so-clever-etc.-etc.-etc. But, in the end, it takes only a small bit of reflection to conclude that when dealing with things of such natural simplicity, deferring to the primordial, to the source of things, makes the most sense.)

Consequently, the snow, I’ll say, came down snowfully, and in a fit of snowness, as if snow itself were falling all around me.

In any case, seconds passed. Then minutes. And though I’m not sure when the giddy surprise that stopped me in my tracks turned into silent veneration, I do know that I soon found myself rapt with awe like some pilgrim happening upon the ruins of an ancient church in a lost forest. It was not the snow, only, that got to me, but what it did. For this was no mere sprinkling of tiny icicles; this here was a changer of things. Drifting over the creek and the trees, the snow transformed as it fell. The path that had been all mud and leaves was now paved in white, my footprints gone. The brown shore on either side of the creek turned into white sandy dunes. Grey branches all around me became frozen, snowy tentacles. Everywhere, everything burst forth in a festival of becoming. Even the sky, not much to look at in its dull grayness just a few minutes earlier, was now blushing in a strange hue – an organgewhiteness, you might say, recalling melted marshmallows in a bowl of orange sherbet – gradually, deliberately, covering the entire scene with this new unworldly phosphorescence.

Boy, it was a pageant, alright. A disappearing act, a makeover show as seen on TV. Just like that, right before my eyes, everything had become something else. The woods had seen fit to erase themselves, begin again. But not just that. There was a note of triumph to the whole thing, as if nature were claiming victory over its own past, announcing to all the world and me that from this moment on things would be different, and better: Gone would be all the black mud, the lifeless tree limbs, the brokenness; no more would dead leaves cover the ground like a brittle ocean of brown decay; there would even be an end to all greyness.

In short, the reign of white had begun.

And as I stared, I wondered. If I stood there long enough, could I too be remade? Might I become some new thing cleansed in orange and white? Could I start again? Or would I simply vanish like footprints under the snow?