Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Snowy Ramble

There is still something special about waking up on the morning of the first snowfall of the year. You can sense it even before you know exactly what it is. A sleepy, muffled quality that isn't usually there. In the place of the usual mishmash of dead leaves and patio furniture that is in the backyard, there was a gentle, even coating of snow.

Out in the street, there is an air of festivity and out-of-the-ordinariness. The snow has forced us to change our routines a little, to get out and shovel the walks, to dig the snow boots from the back of the closet. People have to pick their way like chickens across the crusty ice patches.  Bundled in big coats and adorned with a great variety of hats and scarves, there is an air of slight ridiculousness to the people in the street. If there is a way to look stern and business-like in a winter hat I have yet to see it.

There's an extra air of excitement. People can't quite forget what it was like when they were kids, when it was all about the sledding and hot chocolate and a day off from school. 

Maybe what I love about a snowy day is a forced variation in routine. Whatever you thought you were going to do, you might have to adjust to fit the circumstances. Cars are forced to drive more slowly down the unplowed streets. Biking's out of the picture. The library is closed today, a handwritten sign taped hastily to the glass doors. Redbeard and I decided not to go to the party tonight, we will stay in and cook dinner and share a blanket, hunker and hibernate.

This afternoon Redbeard and I strolled to the Woodlands, a cemetery that used to be a rich man's estate. It's always a place of quietness and solitude and trees in the midst of the bustling concrete jungle, and even more so on a snowy afternoon. I find it calming and sharpening to walk among the tombstones and monuments. All those calls to rest, slumber, peace, eternity.

It's good to remember every so often that we're headed into the ground, too, eventually. May our lives be precious and long.

Every once in a while you remember to tune in to the beautiful stew of everything all around you: the rasp of shovels, the cold air sharp on your face, the rasp of a snow shovel on the sidewalk. 

On the way home Redbeard and I parted ways, he to the wine store and I to the warmth of home. I walked the last few blocks by myself.

On the corner of 45th and Osage an older couple stood on the corner taking pictures of each other with a digital camera. They seemed to be in a state of amusement and delight. As I passed by, they asked me to take a picture of the two of them together. They spoke with an accent I couldn't place.

I took the picture, wondering what exactly it was they were so joyfully documenting. What's so special about two people together on an average street corner in Philly, a house, a bush, a light coating of snow?

Everything, I guess. 

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