Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Roots (no, i didn't mean routes)

Chicago is getting slammed by a snow storm that didn't just bring snow and wind, it also brought lightning and thunder. This, people, is why I love winter.

People use various coping mechanisms to get through the rough seasons. Sun-tan fiends take cruise ships to Cancun, snow fiends take trips to the mountains or get snowmobiles. Both are fun, and I don't mock those who let their hair down by blowing some cash and getting a few thousand miles away from it all. But I have a different perspective on winter.

Winter, in relation to the other seasons, is the time of death (or rest, depending on who you ask). The ground isn't forced to produce any crops or the trees their fruits. The animals conserve energy and a handful of them hibernate. Some things truly die off to make way for new life. Therefore, in the spirit of such harsh realities as death and decay, I love it when winter throws it's worst at me and reminds me of my frailty.

Tonight I watch from my window as the normally mundane N. Talman Avenue of Logan Square Chicago turned into a surrealist painting. The single light source, high and to the left of my field of vision illuminates a smaller swath of the neighborhood than usual. Flecks of white, moving brilliantly fast, gather and scatter like schools of fish in the ocean - the inky black of night a reasonable imitation of the darkness that resides beneath the deepest of the seas.

What once was a double row of automobiles, one on either side of the one-way street, blurs and transforms into new monstrous forms. Barely recognizable and no longer operable, the weighty precipitation crawls ever so slowly over the morbidly inert family sedans, compacts, and decade-old has-beens. The unnatural joining of snow drifts and four-cylinder imports resemble the horror of a morticians table - the cold, stiff bodies of the deceased partially covered by white cloth - a haunting vision beyond my partially frosted window.

Trees, against such a tempestuous backdrop, abandon their nobility and adopt a lurid and egregious sway becoming limbs of mass destruction, lurching and reeling, directed by the wind. Three seasons out of four a tree bears fruit, provides shade, and is habitat for many creature. With winter the trees flex and bend, reaching and twisting with their scraggly arms for anything to destroy.

It may not be what you see when you watch a winter storm, but this the vision I watch unfold as I look out my window. And it's beautiful to me. Were I Dali, I'd paint you a picture, but I am stuck with my words.

There is something very intoxicating to me about a good winter storm. The sheer power necessary to pull off such a massive feat may be part of the awe factor. I remember standing, stunned to silence, from the summit of Giant mountain in the ADK watching a storm roll over the Dix range of the High Peaks. Huge ribbons of white, moving with seemingly effortless grace, flowing and twisting, visible and unpredictable, containing thousands of pounds of snow.

So many memories, so much bliss. So many opportunities to lean into the bite of the wind, feel it push and swirl around you, cleanse you, scraping away all that isn't necessary and essential, and leaving the soul feeling lightened. Free.

I suppose this is the part of the narrative where I fess up and admit that I was raised in North Dakota and I have soft spot for wicked winters. There, I said it. So shoot me. I guess wicked snow storms take me back to my roots.

All in all, I can't wait for tomorrow. Everything has already closed, no one will be out and about, and a snowbank is already calling my name. If you think of me today, feel free to envision me dressed head-to-toe in winter garb sitting contentedly in a snowbank, peaceful, and at rest.