I couldn’t keep my eyes from the windows in the classroom. I taught lessons, corrected papers, assigned homework, and answered questions. But I wasn’t there. My eyes, the windows to my soul, took my attention to the white flakes falling. No sunshine turned them into sequins like a magical fairy godmother. They fell from a bleak sky, the wind carrying each individual on an unknown path.
I watched the windows. I watched the clock. I counted down minutes until I could extricate myself from the warmth of indoors and get out into that weather. For this December baby, it was a beautiful day.
Digging out my snow pants was no easy task. They were shoved to the back of the top shelf in my closet. The fabric slipped from my grasp three times before I got a firm grip and pulled it out from hibernation. I slipped them on and laced up my snow sneakers.
The first breath of fresh, cold wintry air opened my lungs. It was like the first breath of a baby. The first significant snowfall marking the winter’s birth in the hills and ridges. At our higher altitude, the snow is friendlier. It accumulates and sticks and is slow to depart. It is a wonderful guest. It is pristine, engaging, and makes me think of warmth. I am bundled up in several layers, and I know a cup of tea will be waiting for me when I return to the house.
Up the hill, through a field, and up the ridge I climb. I move slowly, looking for interesting tracks. But here the snow is keeping her secrets. The southwesterly wind is creating a curious landscape. The surface of the snow looks icy, so I tread carefully. But it is a disguise. I barely touch the top of the snow and it crumbles. The wind has blown the snow over the blades of grass like a fragile thatched roof. One gentle touch and it all falls between the blades.
The wind is relentless. It whips the tiny flakes around. I approach my favorite tree at the top of the ridge and turn around. I see the fields, our house, the valley. There is another ridge a mile or so off, but it is nearly invisible in the blowing snow. I contemplate the view. Visibility is poor. Normally the view has much of interest to offer. Today the ridge gives me nothing, not even a decent set of animal tracks to follow.
I start the descent. The wind whips the flakes into a frenzy. Small pricks abuse the side of my face. I stop at the pavilion, thinking I can find some shelter there, and look around the property. But the wind has other ideas, and soon I leave.
I search for tracks because old habits don’t forsake us as easily as we would like to think. I meet my own tracks going up the hill. I can almost see myself hiking up with expectations of discovering something interesting in the snow. My self of thirty minutes ago doesn’t realize I’m there. There would be no point in warning her because it isn’t about the destination but the journey.
I think ahead to the future hikes and wonder if my future self can see the excitement in my step. Maybe my future self, the one existing several months from now, would shake its head at me. She is ready for spring; I’m elated at the newness of this season. But then again, maybe she would understand. It’s about the details, the simple pleasures, the journey. Maybe she would smile and say, “There’s so much more to come.”
I return to the house and shed my now wet layers and bundle up with a cup of tea. I watch the gray light fade from my window. The darkness deepens, as does my contentment. A plow goes by, its rumbling cutting through all focus. Winter has had its first day of life.