Peaceable Man Files Issue #22: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, But I’m Not Likely to Get It
Random musings on my gypsy existence at my cabin in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and wherever else life takes me.
My recent spur-of-the-moment trip to Colorado to visit my son has given me a hankering for something we don’t see a lot of in these parts anymore.
Sitting in that cozy cabin in Breckenridge with a fire going, watching the snow filter down through the pines outside the windows, brought back fond memories of winters of yore when snow was a common occurrence here in Pennsylvania.
I’m dating myself here, but fifty years ago when I was growing up on our little farm in Montgomery County, we got a lot of snow. Snow deep enough to shut down our little road so we could go sledding without fear of being run over by a car. Snow deep enough to dig tunnels through and build snowmen that would last a month or two before they melted away.
We saw the first snowflakes usually in November. The last of the snows would come as late as early April, around Easter. In between was four months of frozen tundra. Each snowfall built upon the one before, so that by the time spring came, it took a few weeks for the earth to unlock from the layers of snow over a foot-deep bed of frost.
And how cold it was. By the end of November, the ground was frozen hard, creating the conditions for the snow to lay when the storms came. It goes without saying that deep snow requires deep cold. You can’t have one without the other.
Yes, white Christmases were not just a dream back then. We had plenty of them. Many of the gifts we opened on Christmas morning, we’d be wearing or using in the afternoon. Woolen hats, scarves, gloves, skates, sleds, snow saucers.
Alas, those days are gone, likely never to return, at least not in my lifetime. We can debate the cause, whether the result of human activities or part of a natural cycle, but it’s hard to argue that the earth is warming. We can see it in our own human experience, those of us who have been around long enough.
I sure can, at least. I can’t remember the last white Christmas we had. And who gives hats or scarves or gloves for Christmas presents any longer? Who needs them?
Even in the northern parts of Pennsylvania where I have my cabin, the cold and the snow are nothing like they used to be. Last year, we got two decent-sized snowstorms up here, neither of which was very deep, and the snow that did fall was gone within a week or two, and then it was just mud.
As I sit here in the cabin writing this early December morning, it’s fifty-four degrees Fahrenheit and raining. I love a good rain, and we certainly need it. But let it rain in the spring and summer when it’s warm out and I can throw up the doors and windows and hear the soothing trickle of raindrops on the roof and deck.
Winter is for snow. Let it snow!
Some would say good riddance. Who wants all that cold and snow anyway? All the inconveniences of shoveling and having to drive in it.
All that is true, but still, there is something wonderfully cleansing about the snow. The softness of it. The hushed quiet of a deep snowstorm, the way it brings everything to stillness. Putting on your coat and boots and taking a walk through the virginal whiteness of a new-fallen snow before anyone else has set foot in it.
It’s magical. And it’s a magic that I fear is fading for those of us who don’t live in the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, or another higher elevation.
I have a story that’s been rolling around in my head for years, about a man named Hunter who lives in a future world where the environment has warmed to an unhealthy degree and people dwell live in great covered city domes. It’s a perfect world where the trees are plastic and everything is safe and predictable. People even have artificial lovers!
But our hero, who grew up in the unprotected outlands to the north, feels something greatly missing in this artificial, sterile world. He feels a lot missing, actually. He longs for something real.
He longs for snow.
I realize that fictional man is me. The world has become so darn consumeristic and techy and artificial. We see so much of that consumeristic spirit this time of year with the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the pressures to buy, buy, buy.
I long for something real.
I long for snow.
Maybe we’ll get some this year. Maybe we’ll even a white Christmas.
It doesn’t look promising, based on the long-range weather forecast. But the thing about weather is that, like life, it’s unpredictable.