This morning, I crossed an unexpected bridge to my childhood. Walked out of the Vestal School, the public elementary school that my grandchildren attend, after my second day of guest singing classes— and it was snowing! A long-buried muscle memory of the magic of the first snow in my New Jersey childhood. I thought of Rachel Carson’s wish that all children retain their sense of wonder. There are few things more wondrous than this gift from the heavens, these thick white flakes dancing down from the sky, light and fluffy and filling the air with beauty. They landed on the asphalt and dissolved, spotted a crow’s back and caressed my face.
I grew up with snow and like most kids, loved the beauty, the snowball fights, the sledding, the snowmen (it was the 50’s— no snow people yet), the snow angels. At least in December. By February, it had turned to dirty, grey slush and waking up to snow in March was just a bummer when the spirit was craving the bloom of Spring. But when next December rolled around, that was forgotten and the wonder kicked in again.
An entire adult life in San Francisco meant farewell to snow— mostly. There was a period of some 10 to 15 years when we went each year up to the snow in the Sierras for 5 or 6 days each December break. Skiing wat the attraction for some, but not me— though a little snowshoeing, sledding and snowball fights were enough to keep me in touch with my wintry roots.
But truth be told, I loved returning to San Francisco to magnolia trees blooming in January and plum trees in February. Now the family goes to Palm Springs in December where swimming pools and hot tubs await and that’s just fine with me. I loved tasting summer in January in my recent trip to Australia.
But this morning I remembered. (Though in fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I actually saw snow come down. It might have been a March in Salzburg some 10 years ago.) Yes, I like warmth and sun and sand and water, but there is a different kind of beauty in the sweep of those downy flakes and a land blanketed in white, untrodden snow, the crackling of the fire and the warmth of hot beverages and the cozy indoor time spent with family and neighbors. San Francisco is actually a four season affair— sun, rain, wind, fog—but not like my childhood falling leaves, snow, flowers and sun with water.
So maybe I’m not done with winter after all. As the old Chinese poet Wu-Men suggests:
Ten thousand flowers in Spring, the moon in Autumn.
A cool breeze in Summer, snow in Winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
This is the best season of your life.