Between this past Thursday and very early morning Friday, the northeast Texas area had a record-level amount of snow — about a foot’s worth in 24 hours’ time. Not only was the quantity unusual (we usually get only about an inch or two, at most), but the quality as well. What little snow we usually get around here is a dry dusting, not really even worth doing anything with. But this time it was the real thing — fat, wet flakes that easily collected layer upon layer upon layer, until the snow soon blanketed everything that it fell upon. The snow was so wet that it had had a bluish-tint to it, which this shot from the backyard patio in the early morning Thursday shows:
After Daniel went to sleep and the Hubby came back from his visit with friends, I bundled up with my camera and took a walk around the neighborhood. Again, what astonished me was how transformed my familiar neighborhood became, almost becoming unrecognizable:
When I stepped outside, all I could do at first was be still, as the last paragraph of James Joyce’s short story “The Dead” floated out of my head and into the winter scene before me:
A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
And this was why:
As I walked around the neighborhood Thursday night, the relative brightness of the overcast night surprised me — it must’ve been the snow, reflecting all of the ambient light. Even though my neighborhood is usually very dark at night (especially with no moonlight to see by), I didn’t need a flashlight that night, as everything was as clear as dusk.
All I heard was the unfamiliar popping and cracking of tree branches, as they shed their heavy load of snow (so unfamiliar was the sound that I nearly jumped the first time I heard it) and the muted hush of snow falling, steadily. Those lines from “The Dead” kept wafting in and out of my head as I walked, pausing every once in a while to take a picture.
It hardly felt that I was in the middle of one of the busiest metropolitan areas in north Texas. Instead, the snow and the quietude of the night felt as if I was in the middle of a small town, with the few residents very far away from each other:
By the late morning Friday, the temperature reached above freezing so that the snow started to melt — not all the way, but enough that the startling wonderment of it was diminished somewhat. For Saturday, the weather forecasters say the temperature will hit the mid-40s, with the same for Sunday. With that will come the end of this snow — this unexpected gift of northern US-like snow to Texas. I don’t know if or when we will ever see snow like that again (I’ve lived here 28 years, and this would have to be the first for me in Texas, although I have faint memories of this kind of snow when I was four, in Illinois).
So I took lots of pictures and had Daniel play in the snow as much as he can so that he can make a winter snow memory (and hopefully it’ll stick). We made and remade a snowman and threw snowballs. I made a snow angel on the ground, after God knows how long. I gathered snow in two plastic tubs, as well as a snowball — all in the freezer right now. I paused during my late evening walk, looked at the stark simplicity of the cold white, equalizing everything and everybody, and listened to the muted fall of snow falling and branches giving way.
And it felt like prayer.