The landscape near home transformed last week, from dull and dreary late-November blah to the soft snow and sparkle that inspire those of us who love winter to welcome it back each year.
On the afternoon before Thanksgiving, the dog and I had walked through the woods, crunching across a thick layer of fallen leaves and watching the final rays of a quickly-sinking sun sift through the bare, gray limbs of trees. Two days later, those leaves and limbs were covered by a few inches of snow.
Snow changes everything. It softens the hard, homely edges of late fall. Covers the blemishes of the brown fields and color-depleted forest floor. Drapes the evergreens in lacy white and sets the mountains to morning brilliance and evening alpenglow.
Snow – for me, at least – also provides a seasonal attitude adjustment. There is a stretch of time in late autumn (call it Stick Season – or simply November) where my instinct is to turn inward, hunker down, stay inside for all those growing hours of darkness. An outdoors lover by nature and nurture, during this time I often have to force myself to get out of the house and into the outside for that fresh air fix. I find myself wondering how I can possibly love the coming winter season – and if I really do, or it’s just what I’ve always known.
Then it snows, and all is right in my world.
Despite my touchy relationship with November, this year’s lingering warmth and smattering of sweet sunshine softened the drabness. I’ve often thought I’d adjust more easily to this seasonal shift if we went from 50-degree days straight into winter, and that’s sort of what last week’s snow transformation felt like. In a day, we shifted from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season, from autumn to winter, from blah to brilliant.
The first snow also fell on a rare weekend when my family had very little on the calendar. We were free to simply revel in the newness of this season without rushing to the ski slopes or driving to soccer practice. Homework was done. No one had to go to work.
We walked through the woods and had our first (short) ski through the field. We laughed at the dog’s joyful snow-rolling antics. Even after dinner, we returned outside. A few evenings earlier, the dark had seemed all encompassing. Now, a soft glow reflected from the snow, providing just enough light for us to make our way along the quite roads. The stars, I think, shine more brightly when there is snow sparkle below.
I know it’s easy to love winter when it’s sparkly and new. I know that in the coming months there will likely be rain that ruins the snow and my mood, bitter winds that make me want to stay inside by the fire, and nights long and dark enough for me to yearn for spring’s return. But it snowed last week. And, for now, that’s enough.
Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's December 2, 2021 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record.