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Holmes on the Range for Dec. 25, 2008

by Nelson Holmes

HUERFANO- Snow.  There are people for whom the season’s first contact of falling flake on unprotected skin sets them to twirling in Rogers and Hammerstein ecstasy.  I, on the other hand, begin looking for something to sacrifice to the angry God who has set this freezing plague upon me.  So, why do I live in Colorado?  Let me just say that winter increases my appreciation of the three seasons more accommodating of human endeavor.

    To explain; I’m from California where National Weather Radio is only listened to by insomniacs and the very lonely.  In Colorado, I listen with a combination of dread and fear, staring at a grey landscape while the computer generated voice intones; “…if you must travel in the warning area during the time of the warning…” be prepared for your ultimate demise.  My first winter here was comedy of errors that found me often writhing on the ice after a fall or desperately digging myself out of drifts.  So how does downy flake take on the consistency of concrete after the application of a little wind?  It was after a futile digging effort, walking the half mile to the house muttering curses the entire time, when my angry strides ended in a tumble that cracked my patella and dislocated my knee.  Crawling humbled and humiliated, the last twenty yards to home, I decided to make peace with winter. 

    Slowly, I’ve come to see snow as a morally neutral substance.  Time–release water designed for ease of storage and an integral part of the water cycle.  I even force myself to go for strolls in the stuff and I’ve been richly rewarded.  The compression of empirical reality in a heavy snow storm is surreal.  Silence becomes heavy and palpable and perspective shortens creating a strange sense of insularity.  Walking through a fresh snow field in the moonlight offers a glimpse of the sacred; the sparkle of the crystals and the heightened reflection of the Moon’s glow always inspires a humbling reverence.  I’ve also learned that snow arrives in a number of types and varieties.  My favorites are the huge, wet potato chip flake and the stuff a friend of mine calls agua nueve which, to me, looks like small, round bits of Styrofoam packing material.  Nothing is quite as ethereal as the sight of falling crystals as the Sun shines through the clouds; it is like standing in a flurry of diamond dust. 

    Alas, time changes one’s perspective and my feelings toward snow are evolving.  At least I’m less likely to curse the stuff in schizophrenic rage… found out snow doesn’t listen, nor does it care!