A Winter Snowfall

Despite the cold there are some things I do love about winter.

I grew up in the deepest South: annual snowfall two inches every two years. A snowfall of one inch or less provokes a run on the supermarkets for eggs, bread, milk and toilet paper. Fear that these items will be depleted before the snow melts tomorrow prompts sometimes strange behaviors, and too many drivers assume the rules of the road are unchanged. That means good business for the body shops. But mostly there is appreciation for the rare beauty od a somewhat unusual event.

I live in Pittsburgh now, and though snow is no longer a rare event I still am awed on awakening to the softened landscape of a snowfall.

Unless I have been up unusually late the night before or am ill I am often awake around 5 am; I may have padded down to the kitchen even earlier and and found almost enough reflected light to navigate without turning on the overhead light. The light snowfall during the night laid a fresh coverlet, and the light it reflects back, even on the cloudiest nights, is amazing; it’s so easy to pick out all the details of my surroundings: the houses across the street, the lyre-shaped oak in the back yard, someone out for an early walk with a dog (the road crews already have made their passes on this school bus route). In the clear sky of the last full moon it was astounding, the pergola’s shadows sharp on the snow.

As I wait for the coffee to drip, through the bare trees I see the lights of the various houses all across the valley and on the hill behind me wink on as their occupants arise and light their ways inside, and I watch the lights of cars coming down the distant section of PA 910 about a mile away.

I share the woods behind my house with a variety of animals and in the morning’s snow I see their wanderings during the night: deer, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs. Sometimes a fox trots through the yard. And later in the morning the local flock of crows will be flitting from tree to tree and commenting on all the activities in their domain.

Biologists tell us that we are losing billions–that’s right, billions–of birds, insects and other fauna every year because of our own activities, and the possible consequences of this loss of diversity may be far more and far worse than we imagine.

As I pour my fresh coffee and take my cup to sit before the fire I think of this and hope we have not come too far down that road to make a course correction.