Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: snow

Snow Bank Stories

Alexis-Anderson-puddle

On my block the snow banks reign. They billow with the winter, building girth with every snowfall and polar vortex. This winter has been especially harsh. The banks are bloated with layers of snow that together tell the story of the season. The inch in late November sits at the bottom, hugging the frozen tundra and buttressing the snowfalls that followed: the blizzard before Christmas, the extra inches that welcomed the new year, and every nighttime shower that lubricated the roads and made hell of your commute. I can see all of these snowfalls now in the mounds that flank my neighborhood, bound together like a white pages in an epic novel. Season’s Greetings: The Snows of Winter 2014—coming to a bookstore or e-device near you. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that these paper stories tell time like the rings of a tree, like that from which the stuff of paper comes.

There’s a particular snow story I noticed recently on my block, on an unseasonably warm day. With the sidewalks leading to the street barraged with shoveled snow and many driveway ends flooded with snowmelt, someone had forged a new pathway to the street through a sturdy snow bank. This makeshift staircase, formed by the boot prints of many waylaid walkers, had been fossilized by nightly icings. So long as the cold held, this corridor would too.

But how strange it felt to walk on water! For if it were July and I took this same detour, my feet would not leave the ground. But it is February, and as I climbed this temporary trail to the street, I thought nothing of the miracle it was to walk upon a path made of solidified water.

This will not last. Snow burns just as paper does, and as the temperature rises and the sun burns stronger the stories the snow banks tell will slowly melt away. They will disintegrate and be subsumed back into the muddy earth, where they will atomize and reform as new stories for the spring to tell with a smile. Those wearied by the long winter usually cannot wait to bid it an unceremonious farewell, as if they blame winter for getting in the way of the more marketable spring. But the beautiful stories the spring tells were not earned; they were given. The flowers and the green grass and the robins and the balm of the temperate air owe their existence to the grace of winter, to the unheralded work it performs to prepare the earth for resurrection. It is hard work, but it gets done every year.

It’s winter yet in early March, but I can feel the coming of spring. In this dreary in-between when the cold and snow seem to linger like uninvited guests at party’s end, I don’t despair. Rather, I spend my late- winter days finishing the weighty tome of winter and anticipating how the story of this year will continue in the sequel of spring come April.

To be continued.

Photo by Alexis Anderson.

Winter’s Harsh Beauty

“Wisdom comes with winters.” –Oscar Wilde

I’ve always taken for granted my ability to walk on ice.

Growing up in the Wisconsin winters, I had many opportunities to work and play on the ice, whether it be to shovel the sidewalk or play a pickup game of broomball. You learn pretty quickly how to adjust your walking motion when traversing a patch of ice; you can’t just amble through as usual, unless you want to repeatedly assail your tailbone.

Winter teaches hard lessons like this one. If you don’t learn how to walk, you’ll earn a quick trip to the icy pavement. If you don’t learn how to maneuver your car, a snowbank will find its way to your bumper on the quick. Winters in the north can be harsh, and they ought to be. Many people disagree with this, but they miss something good when they pine only for tropical temperatures. As Charles Simic writes, “The cold concentrates the mind. The moment we step outdoors, we do what we have to do with uncommon intelligence and dispatch, unlike those folks who can afford to sit in the shade on some Mediterranean or Caribbean island. … History, E.M. Cioran said, is the product of people who stand up and get busy. Can one be a dreamer or a dolt on the North Pole?”

When I take a walk or bike ride in the winter cold, my mind is razor-sharp. With the wind biting at my face and slowly numbing my less-layered limbs, the silly inconveniences of life I could care about only on a balmy 72-degree day evaporate with each cold breath. I expel so much energy bracing my body against the chill that re-entering a heated building feels purifying, like the cold is melting off me. I crave that feeling all year round.

The giddiness I display on a cold day or at the first sign of snow bewilders many. “How can you like the cold? You’re crazy.” I am. I’m a winter addict. I find my high in a walk through a snowy wood. In a soundtracked, nighttime snowfall. In the smell of the crisp winter air accented by a nearby bonfire. In a hot cup of tea thawing my frozen hands.

There is real beauty in the things we must struggle through. I love winter, to paraphrase a former president, not because it is easy but because it is hard. Some wish they could leap over winter into spring, escaping the blustery winds and slippery sidewalks for a more tepid time. But I say we need it. The deeper the winter, the more beautiful the spring. With their 75-and-sunny weather every day, Los Angelenos don’t know what they’re missing.

I’ll be able to appreciate all the more that first blooming flower in April not because it signifies winter’s end, but because I struggled through a season without flowers.

I fought you for so long…

Imagine: Darkness, accompanied by golden light from surrounding “Narnia” lamp posts. The snow slowly permeates everything in sight, including your face. The path you’re on shines like diamonds and swivels oh so gracefully alongside a sparkling river. Soft piano music dances into your ear, choreographed perfectly with the falling flakes. Now, tell me that God is not with you at that very moment.

Snow is commonly thought of as a metaphor for a sense of renewal or rebirth, but I see it as being able to see our worth. God drops this stuff down on us to show us that we can sparkle like diamonds and are so clean and new if we choose to be. Go outside the next time it is snowing at night and see what happens.

P.S. If you want to experience a living and breathing God, listen to Relient K’s album mmHmm. He is all over those lyrics.

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