Is All Snow Created Equal?

A cold front has settled over us and the softly falling rain feels especially chilling on the heels of the seventy and eighty degree temperatures that we have been enjoying. There is even an expectation that the higher elevations, i.e. our farm in Virginia, may get snow.

Last week while we reveled in short sleeves and played outside, my friend in Northern California watched her daffodils droop in the snowfall, then lost power and finally internet service. While I was feeling bad for her, she was actually glad for the extra water as their climate is usually quite dry.

This got me thinking – is all snow alike – is all snow created equal?

Quick answer: absolutely not! But, for all kinds of reasons.

Here in the south, our snow is heavy and wet, slippery and treacherous. Routes can form in the road that yank you right off the road with them and the icy undercoating that forms when the snow first hits the warm pavement then refreezes, is difficult to scrape off. The snow that is scraped off is akin to boulders. Hard and cement-like they can dent your bumper. I actually had the front air damn on my car ripped off by one.

Sidewalks and steps are also dangerous and following a snow storm our hospitals are full of accident related victims. Year before last I was one of them, slipping on perfectly scraped steps off a porch. The warmth of the sun had caused the roof to drip its melting snow-hat onto the grooves in the brick steps which kept the ice from being visible to me. The hematoma on my backside was the size of a basketball and missed my spine by only two inches.

In Bland, Virginia, the snow is like baby powder. Dry and soft, it blows off the roof, and a broom can be used to sweep it away from steps and the deck. No shovel needed! I like to run through it, watching it fly up around me as I go. It is fun to be there in a snow storm and I have even seen snow as late as May pouring down upon us. Of course, late snows never last long and seem like a crazy treat.

I think it also matters ‘when’ it snows. Snow at Christmas; nothing better. Last Christmas deep snow blanketed us and it was glorious to see our landscape resembling a scene from a Dickens novel.

Snow after the trees have budded and spring flowers are nodding their beautifully colored heads at us, not a good thing. My trio of early blooming rhododendrons often get bitten back in infancy, their fragile lavender blooms like sheer silk become brown and wither after a late frost or freeze. My first purple iris winked at me yesterday, fully bloomed on a stalk with two sisters waiting to join it. All around it thick swollen buds are waiting to follow. A freeze would kill them now. But they are too widespread to cover with light materials and my husband thinks the weight of a covering might also break their fragile stalks. I am hoping they survive, that we will only get this soft rain and stay above freezing.

In North Carolina, like California, it also matters where you live as to whether or not you may see snow. A friend who lives a couple of hours southeast of me, rarely experiences any. So she loves it. Any snow, any time, and she’s happy. Our beaches do not get snow, with the rare exceptions that make every newspaper.

I once saw a lovely teenage girl twirling outside, arms above her head which was tilted back and laughing, as the snow covered her in tiny drops that melted as they landed. “Snow,” she giggled. “My first ever snow!”. Turns out she was from Pakistan, a recent immigrant to the United States. Her Grandmother stood in the door frame in a lovely long jeweled wrap, looking simultaneously in awe at the snow and in shock at her granddaughter’s behavior. I still think it was one of the most beautiful scenes I have witnessed about the magic of snow.

Those of us who know snow intimately, have it as ingrained in us as our dialects, often forget the people who have never seen it, never caught a snowflake for that one nanosecond before it disappeared as though it never existed. For them, snow is as wondrous as the Pyramids might be to me.

Is all snow created equal? I think not.

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