The snow is a thick fluffy wooly blanket draped across our city. During the recent two-wave mega-snowstorm, my family worked and schooled from home, as did many families. Snowstorms are best enjoyed when we can just be home. I gazed out the window at the falling crystals: big chunky flakes, blowing snow that formed waves of drifts in the yard. It was an entrancing, mesmerizing snowfall as flakes twisted, tossed, and tumbled toward earth, accumulating and accumulating. And accumulating.
These snow days moved slower, quieter, and snugglier than the usual weekday. We shared hot chocolate and homemade chili. We delighted in the red cardinals sitting among the snow-covered tree branches.
We shoveled in shifts. At least four times over three days, we took work and school breaks to get outside for the fresh air. We shoveled while it still snowed. We shoveled without haste, without overdoing it. We used our shoulder, arm, and hand muscles, to push, lift and toss (ever higher) scoop after scoop of powdery snow. We built heat in our bodies, shedding layers and feeling the cold, crisp air on our faces. It was aliveness, without franticness. When we tired, we retreated inside. We were grateful for the assist from an anonymous neighbor who took care of the ridge of snow between the sidewalk and the road with his snowblower.
We bundled up for walks each day: snowpants, boots, hats, the big mittens. I let a snowflake land on my mitten and looked at the crystal shape of this sparkly sky flower. A gentle breath and it melted away. Have you ever looked at a single snowflake? Or caught flakes on your tongue? The fragile flakes pelt your face and melt immediately, tiny brief taps of cold on cheeks and tongues.
We tromped through the snow around our block. We walked slowly. We shuffled and slid on the ice when necessary. We had nowhere to get to, no deadline or destination. The walk itself was the goal, the journey, the delight.
We saw tracks: footprints, hoof prints, paw prints. In this deep snow, deer drag their hooves, leaving a ridge across the snow on their way to their next step. We saw dog paw prints beside boot tracks and Yaktrax. We noticed the different sizes of boots and shoes, the different tread patterns. We saw rabbit tracks and their paths leading under our bushes. Squirrel tracks streaking across the yard to a tree trunk.
We marveled at the marks the many wild beings leave behind in the snow. All of us are saying with each step: We are here. We are here. We are here.
In memory of Della Theis (February 1937-December 2022), my eighth grade English teacher.
Photos by Amber D. Stoner, unless otherwise indicated: Snow, snow, more snow, bunny prints in the snow, snow angel (photo by Toni Knorr).
Nature nearby is a monthly column by Eden Prairie resident Amber D. Stoner.
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