I can count on one hand the number of winters that I've had snow in my life.
Nothing prepares you for it. It's always very sudden. One day the weather forecast says rain but the sky decides that rain isn't good enough, and the temperature dips just a tiny, little bit, and the water freezes. It's usually night, which comes much earlier in the day than you'd prefer, and you’re walking along and you realize the rain is too slow. The water drops a little too big. Then you realize it's not even rain at all. You've worn shoes that won't protect your feet from the slush and your jacket is just a bit too thin, but none of that matters because snow. It's beautiful and it's been a long time and it's falling.
It feels heavy almost, walking through that first snow of the season. The way it moves in the air reminds you of the tiny pieces of seaweed that float in the ocean, the connection to the warm sun of the ocean and the cold flakes hitting your cheeks a strange feeling. Then a tiny flake will find its way to your tongue, a tingly sensation as each individual snowflake melts. It's crisp and it's clean and it's cold.
You watch the snow fall to the ground, each tiny piece disappearing just as quickly as it appeared. Its brief life ends in a flash and you’re thankful. You had a good life, you think to yourself, you're one of the first. And it's true. In the month that follows the first snow the newness is still there, the excitement of things changing and the world as you know it becoming different. Their short little lives fill you with that childlike feeling, even if you know that in a few weeks you'll wish it were summer again.
The trees get covered first, their thin branches collecting the flakes into tiny little piles of what looks like cotton. It's as if there was some really huge pillow fight that you just pissed and all the stuffing has been left behind. It will remind you of Dr. Seuss without the color. It will remind you of childhood. It will remind you that there are things in this world you're still not too old for.
Then you'll walk inside and it's warm, you'll leave the quiet of the new fallen snow and the world seems brighter somehow, more distinct. You'll close your eyes and feel melted snow on your lashes touch your cheeks, a chilly reminder of winter's start. You'll rush to take your jacket off and your hat and your scarf. They will be wet with tiny little beads. In subway stations you'll see everyone's hair dotted with the droplets and you'll know that outside the snow is falling.
That next morning is shocking, it always is. That first time made your heart race and you found yourself giggling as if you were five again as you hopped through the snow in shoes that weren't warm enough, weren't dry enough. Now, it's been a couple of years and you're prepared. You put on your boots designed just for this, pulling them from the back of the closet they've rested in for spring and summer and most of fall. Your feet are heavy with the unfamiliar weight of added lining and waterproofing. The ground is covered now, the nighttime is always the busiest for snow. You walk through the half melted piles that line the sidewalk, trying your hardest not to slip, your legs not yet adjusted to winter. You're coat's warmer today, you've brought your gloves and you've left a few minutes early so that you have time to enjoy the snow in the daylight.
Everything is quiet, it's so much quieter with the snow. Everything you've read about it in books in true. There's a stillness to it even in the middle of the city. And it's white, so much white. Your life had been filled with green before, and now you've gotten to see different colors. The reds and oranges and yellows of fall and the white of winter. You never knew such whiteness existed.
The day will go on, the temperature will rise, and the first snow will melt and freeze into dangerous slicks of ice. You'll find yourself wishing for more snow, anxious for it to really start. The first snow is just a tease, it always is. It'll be weeks before the permanent blanket covers the city. You'll get used to the roofs out the window being laden down, using them as makeshift measuring sticks for how much snow had fallen as you slept.
I began to write this for NaNoWriMo last week after the first snow happened here in Sapporo, and decided it would make a nice blog post instead. It's a bit different from what I normally post so I hope you enjoyed it.