Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter Wonderland - Not!

Annually I make a trek to Kansas for the gathering of my cousins who live in Wichita – and their prodigal brother who moved off to Kansas City. We always have a tremendous amount of fun as we gather to visit, exchange gifts, and eat.

This year I made it up to Kansas in near record time by getting a jump on the holiday traffic – and before the predicted blizzard blew in. I don’t know if anyone who gets real winter would call the weather I experienced in Kansas a real blizzard since there were only about eight inches of snow, but the news stations all talked of “blizzard conditions” and for this South Texan, it most certainly counts.

As I watched the snow fall and blow, I kept thinking that I should write about how beautiful it was, creating a winter wonderland on the first official day of winter and just a few days before Christmas. Because I’m a southerner and the snow is such an unusual sight for me, I should be in awe at the transformation from the barren brown ground visible at dawn to the bright white dune-like topography visible at mid-afternoon. Instead, I am not moved in the sense of the romantic authors so inspired by the beauty of such pristine newness. While watching the snow swirl and blow, I only saw it in the view of the realists.

The ferocity of the gusting winds shifting the snow around the ground reminded me more of the wind and rain of a tropical storm. The rain, like this snow falls sideways so much that one wonders how any of it ever makes it to the ground, yet somehow, it does and flooding ensues. The snow is somehow making it to the ground.

Mother Nature did not create this show for my interest or amusement; she did this because it is what she does when warm moist air meets frigid air. These conditions would kill me just as quickly as amuse me – not out of any malice, just because they are beyond any conditions my body can handle without help.

All that said, the disaster freak in me wonders at the quiet violence of the snowstorm. Unlike rain that pounds the walls and roof, the snow dodges and swirls with the wind. The flakes that do collide with the house do so with a sigh rather than a scream. Tropical storms announce their own arrival. The snowstorm settles in on you and envelopes you in its grasp.

I keep waiting for some disastrous occurrence in the snow outside the window. Much like NASCAR is really only fun when there are crashes, I keep waiting for limbs to give way or roofs to go flying – something to break the quiet.

Even if nothing extraordinary happens, I’ll never look at another Rockwell winter scene quite the same again. The perfection of the final product hides the stories of its creation. It is one thing to wonder at that final beauty, but isn’t the story of its creation so much more fun? That story can be retold and remembered and the exhilaration of the moment comes back fully. That final perfection only lasts until the first step breaks the smooth surface. From that moment on, only the story remains.

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