February 8, 2012 | LXXI, No. 45

In awe of a winter wonderland

In Other Words

If I could wave a magic wand and change something about myself, topping the list would be how affected I am by the weather. I am nearly always too cold. Occasionally I am too hot; it’s either too sunny, or too cloudy, or too wet or too dry. Rarely am I perfectly content with the temperature or my reaction to it.

I used to think this was simply a personality glitch, but then I got frostbite — first in April and then in August — and I knew my body was clearly unhappy about the weather too.

There is one exception to this litany of complaints, and that’s when the sky opens up and dumps out a snowstorm. I absolutely love snow. If it’s very cold, I don’t want to go outside, but if it’s very cold with snow, then I’m the first one out the door. The child in me emerges and my feelings about the weather run towards giddy. Having spent most of my childhood in warmer, southern states, it still feels exceptionally magical when it snows, however juvenile that may sound.

I suspect I am not the only adult who professes a childlike love of a good snowfall. A few weeks ago, the Grand Coulee area got a wonderful snowstorm. Friday night saw crowds of families at North Dam Park careening down the local sledding hill. It didn’t seem to matter that the mercury didn’t even top 20 degrees. Kids from toddlers to teenagers were bundled up, shoving the powdery snow in their mouths and flopping down in the soft white fluff to make snow angels. Adults were scattered across the rim of the hill, content to watch their happy children cavort in the snow. Some of them, myself included, catapulted down the hill with them, laughing in equal delight. Someone even put their muscles to work and built a questionable jump off the concrete benches for the downhill racers.

Regardless of the temperature, after a few trips up and down that hill toting a sled and a toddler, cold is the furthest thing from my mind. The simplistic wonder of frozen precipitation apparently can bring out the best in me — I wasn’t cold one bit.

The anticipation and activity of the holiday season has passed us, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to cocoon ourselves in our houses until spring. With only four seasons to the year, it seems a shame to waste one of them simply waiting for it to be over.

So, we go ice-skating in Wenatchee, skiing in Idaho, snowshoeing in Northrup Canyon, and sledding wherever we can find a suitable hill. People seem to be extra friendly when they are outdoors in a winter wonderland, like everyone is sharing in a small gift. Smiles are wide; conversations with genderless strangers, bundled head to toe in unidentifiable gear are friendly and swift as you ride the chairlift or console a crying child who flipped a sled.

Like when I was a kid, snow seems to bring out the best in outdoor fun. There has been a lull of some months when playing outdoors was top on our list of daily activities. It has been cold and dark. But somehow, when it’s cold and dark and snowy, the effect is softer, more inviting.

I know that snow offers a substantial amount of inconvenience to most people. Shoveling a driveway is serious work. Roads are icy and dangerous, boots are muddy, and the parking lots are slippery. As I write this, the rain is washing away much of our accumulated snow and the feeble sun is melting the rest. I know most people around town will be happy about this, but I can’t help but hope the weatherman will tell me another big storm is on its way before our next season is upon us.

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