Thursday, February 27, 2003

We Virginians usually have mild Winters, Winters that would be mistaken for late Fall or early Spring anyplace north of Philadelphia. Even here in the mountains, deep snow is a rarity. If Winter is a country, we speed through on a tourist visa. This month I feel like I have, unasked, been given a green card and am now a resident alien in the Republic of Frozen Water. I find my vocabulary strangely inadequate, and wish, like in those mythical Eskimo languages, that there were sufficient words for the infinite varieties of snow. There is the powdery snow you can sweep off the porch; wet snow that clings to clothing and bends tree branches down as if gravity itself had grown momentarily intense; snow that falls straight like little pellets of ice: snow that floats down in impossible dandelion clumps; snow which flows over the top of boots like fine, sifted flour, and then melts in icy prickles on skin; snow plowed and piled in megalithic masses; snow windblown and frozen in shapes like carvings from some lost cult of madmen; snow which ripples like waves spreading across open fields; snow brilliant under sunlight; snow fading into somber monochrome under gray skies . . . You see the difficulty. It is a beautiful country, but I don't know the language. I don't know the customs. I want to go home.