The Snow Diaries:

Journals of a Transplanted New Yorker

By C. A. Gardner

January 6, 2003
The Twelfth Day of Christmas
8-9 p.m., walking in the snow

While I was talking to Marc, Theo dispatched Mom & Dad to say it was snowing while he was driving home to Christy’s house! I told Marc I wanted to go play in the snow, and went out with

Mom’s old blue gloves with the snowy
pattern & Dad’s big black umbrella.
Everything was so dark and still, with these
big fat white flakes swirling down all around,
a storm, showing the gusting wind, so thick
they cover my umbrella with the weight of
a blanket. Passing under streetlamps, they
sparkle and streak like stars across the
darkness. Walking down the dark street,
admiring the small patches of smooth lawns
growing white beneath trees speckled, then
covered with snow, the snow clinging in all
the patches of the pine fronds, shining like
ice crystals on all the knobs of bare branches
spreading like lace against the lights. One
house has a light by an American flag against
the side, and the snow streams past, falling
straight in a patch of orange golden light as
though it were only snowing there. An old man,

part of a family chattering happily in a living room, making ready to say goodbye, pokes his head out to tell me, “It’s snowing!”

“That’s why I’m out walking, to enjoy the snow!”

“It’s a rarity around here!”

I lift my face to the snow, all these fat white flakes flying down into my mouth, into my eyes, streaming white and cold

and beautiful.

Another house is like a fairy tale of
Christmas—many little trees and bushes,
set up in irregular patches with paths
crooked between them but bordered by
those little black-outlined ground lanterns,
the ground all white, shaded, hushed, the
colored Christmas lights along the border
of the house soft and beautiful and reflecting
in the dull sheen of the rich-colored
Christmas balls on the small tree just visible
through their tiny wooded garden in the
central window. While I’m standing here
admiring it, I hear the laughter of children
and the voice of their father as they play
in a back yard hidden across the street.
The voice of winter’s delight.

 

If I lived in upstate New York again, I would still take these snow walks. I wonder if anyone will recognize me here, as they would there, as the crazy woman who walks in the snow?

Many streets with the gusting wind and the cars all covered by snow—seeing the blanket fall, holding my breath & exclaiming as the world slowly turns white and beautiful. The bittersweet bite of homesickness, as always, when the snow first starts falling out of that purple sky. Choosing always the darkest and most interesting snowy streets, till I pass another of the houses I once wished were mine, with white cutout reindeer in the bordered garden of the front lawn and all the windows all unshaded and brightly lit

to show antique cutouts and Christmas
scenes that look like they date back to
the time my mother was born. A glimpse
through darkness into another yard,
between dark-boled trees and house,
where the snowy pines spread low over
the sidewalk and there’s a huge black
fountain, shaped like a birdbath, all filled
with flowers…pinks and purples now
covered with white…flowers in the snow.
A flowerbank.

A house has a searchlight trained on an
American flag flying from a pole in the
center of the yard; the top of the beam
catches one bare tree’s top branches and
lights them orange, like a Y. The snow
whirls in that fountain of light as though it
were streaming down out of the flag and

toward the house.

On the way home I scoop a snowball from a car and spatter a wooden fence rail, then capture a lonely Christmas tree from out by the curb and carry it home, past the beautiful English-garden house with its snowy paths and Christmas balls, as the fat flakes that swirled around so heavily I could hardly see are now pinpricks, delicate as lace as they rush back and forth in front of the lights. Walking through snowy yards, my heavy boots crunching, that soft give. Orange and brown leaves floating in the dark water at the gutter, drowned leaves, soon to be frozen in layers like pressed flowers. I drag the tree back down the street and wonder how we had the strength to carry so many back to the townhouse as

children, rescuing trees from yards and
dumpsters, laughing so hard as we ran
that we could barely breathe. Lining them
up along the front of the house, along the
stairs, a tree family. Now I prop my lone,
fat tree, heady scent of pine, against the
white marble pillar behind our front tree,
propped on the Grecian pillar that was
once a birdbath. The thick, heavy layer
of snow from the black umbrella I twirl
and shake over the branches till it is white
again. Then stand for a moment on the
steps, watching the pinprick flakes of
snow stream out of the sky.

Mom & Dad just bundled up in their
winter coats and boots—Dad in his
fedora—to go out and walk in the snow!

We're home again.

All images and text above copyright 2000-2003 by C. A. Gardner.

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