Let it Snow
Close to eight inches of snow are on the ground in Missoula, Montana, if not more by now. It started falling last night, softly at first, as we followed a winding two-lane highway through the mountains between Idaho and Montana. It started so softly, in fact, that it was impossible to tell it was snow until there was a light white dusting on the pine trees that populate the mountain slopes. But soon an hour had passed, the sun had set, the road was completely covered and by morning, there were eight inches of snow on the ground.
Well--according to the hotel desk clerk in Missoula, there might have been closer to nine or ten inches.
"I've never seen it quite like this," he said to me this morning as we both stood outside, staring at the tree branches weighed down by the snow. "At least not this early."
"I haven't seen snow like this since February," I told him. That wasn't completely true--it had thundered and there was lightening and flurries on the top of Pike's Peak, and there were packs of snow on that mountain I tried to hike in Lake Tahoe, but those didn't count. But real snow--snow that accumulates, snow that causes legitimate traffic problems, snow that stays on the ground--that I hadn't seen in a long time.
And considering where we've spent the last two and a half months, traveling through desert after desert, from ones covered in thorny bushes and cacti to ones filled only with rolling sand dunes, only to end up in southern California where it never rains and then to drive up to Seattle, where it rains a good majority of the year, snow came as quite a shock. Seasons began to take on a new definition (meaning that winter brings 70 degree weather and rain), a "cool day" suddenly was a day where the temperature was below 90 degrees (that's the way they define it in Tempe) and when I asked if anyone ever misses snow, I was looked at incredulously.
"Snow? I can just drive an hour or two and get snow in the mountains. I don't need snow in my front yard."
It's been quite the seasonal adapting for a girl who is used to wearing long underwear to football games and on the daily trek between classes. And at first I liked it--plants were still green when everything back home would be dried up and brown and dead. Rose bushes were still flowering. Leaves hadn't changed to brilliant reds and oranges and yellows before falling off and littering the ground. Everything was the same, except a little chillier at night.
But there's something about the first snowfall you see that makes it wonderful and poignant at the same time. The first time you realize that it isn't raining--that there are white flakes falling and floating on air to ground--is followed by the first time that you realize that sadly one season is ending and another really, actually beginning. Football season is nearing a close, and for many teams it has already ended. We've started dropping by more and more campuses where the focus isn't on the next game but on next season. We've seen lockers cleared out, seniors sneaking their jerseys as a memento, players thinking about what comes next in a life without football, playbooks put on file for next season.
Faster and faster the flakes fall as more teams and players join the ones already packing it in. And then, you wake up one morning, and everything is completely transformed. Covered in white. It's a new season.