There’s nothing like the first snow of the year.
Especially when it comes in quietly and settles on the ground as if our little part of the world is in a snow globe.
Sunday’s gale did the shaking. Monday afternoon’s stillness allowed a temporary transformation from autumnal chores to the realization Michigan’s winter is knocking on our weather door.
You either love it or leave it — or stay and hate it.
So far, we choose to love it and stay.
As I walked through the light coating of snow in our woods’ edge yard Monday evening, dusk descended. The snow lifted my spirits. This has been a tough year full of challenges many of which we share collectively.
For a while, walking in the quiet of the yard, I escaped the simmering acrimony and discord.
Instead, I marveled at how the snow coated leaves and twigs tracing them onto the landscape. Surrounded on three sides by the cold air snow, accumulated on them. Snow reaching bare ground initially melted. It was an effect akin to a raised texture on carpeting.
Our yard has many oaks, beech, white pine and hemlock.
Oak leaves fell en masse last week. I finished clearing them Saturday. Monday evening, snow in the uncleared woods displayed an oak leaf pattern.
Beech retain leaves until spring. They become papery copper plates that hold freshly fallen snow until wind returns rattling off the snow.
White pine and hemlock boughs transform into lace-like forms when coated with a light snow.
Many of you likely reacted to the snow as one friend on social media did: “Yuck,” she proclaimed.
Winter isn’t everybody’s cup of iced tea.
This fall found even me pondering the possibility of spending time in the South this winter. It seems the cold bites more deeply into me than ever before.
Monday evening warmed me up to winter in Michigan again. I studied the yard, the creek below. I brought in firewood for the woodstove and began thinking about all those good hours, days and evenings on cross-country skis enjoying the woods or trails at Ludington State Park and elsewhere.
It made me smile in anticipation.
I ski like a foundering logging truck with bald tires these days. Trails I used to knock off quickly, before heading to another one often seemed longer and harder than I recalled from previous years.
But whenever I ski, especially back in the woods where it’s quiet, the reward is worth the effort.
It’s pretty easy to social distance cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
It’s a good workout in the best gymnasium in the world — the outdoors.
And so often the quiet is a balm for the soul that can’t be bought.
Monday evening, I soaked in that quiet. I heard only the neighbor kids out playing. But that was like music to my ears, too. Kids enjoying a very light snow outdoors rather than moping indoors loathe to engage wintry weather seems the better choice.
We all should play outdoors more. It might be an elixir of youth.
I know winter isn’t a Currier and Ives or a Norman Rockwell painting. It has harsh sides, too. Underestimating winter can prove fatal at the extreme and uncomfortable too often.
And I know winter isn’t really here yet. The snow proved fleeting, mostly melted by Tuesday morning. I didn’t look for the skis or bring out sleds for the grandkids, if COVID doesn’t keep them home all winter.
Instead, I enjoyed this hint of what is to come. I enjoyed that it felt good to me, that it again proves something to look forward to rather than to worry about.
If the pandemic breaks or the promising vaccines do become widely available before spring, maybe a couple weeks visiting the South in March will feel good.
But for now, Michigan is I where I’ll be — gales, cold, rain, snow or even sunshine as the case may be.
A Michigan winter is not for everybody. That’s OK.
So far, it still speaks to me.
I hope I can fully answer it’s call when it arrives.