Snow is my favorite thing that nature does. These last few weeks, after years of disappointment, of feeling shortchanged and cheated, nature has delivered. Chicago has had the most snowfall in 40 years. There’s a small mountain that tops out halfway up my front window. I’ve shoveled the walk and stairs three or four times, as have my landlords. We dump it into the little yard I look out every day.
Light reflects off the white of snow into my place, changing the cast of colors in the pictures I work on. There are no leaves on the trees streetside, so the light is harder, then when it bounces off snow, there’s a silvery sheen as it filters into the room. the paintings come out gray, cold yellow, few warm tones. Fitting for the season.
I feel at my sharpest in winter. The definite contrast between inside and outside makes my mind work better. The bracing blast of cold air outdoors makes me feel alive. I run hot, so the chill is a relief. The opposite of summer, when I feel stuck in the muck of heat and sweat.
This winter was the ten year anniversary of the huge snowstorm that stranded cars on Lake Shore Drive. I drove my cab through it, not giving up and going home past midnight. We’ve barely had more than a couple inches here and there since. So the mounds, rows, and hills covering the city feel special. I feel fortunate not to have to deal with a car in it. The city could do much better with clearing sidewalks, but other than that I love walking through it.
Snow slows everything down. It allows time to reflect. Hurrying through becomes impossible and that’s a good thing. The effort it requires to navigate restores the proper relationship between me and the environment. It reminds me that I’m small and the world is big, that struggle is necessary to get anywhere.
This cover of Trip Shakespeare’s “Snow Days” might be my favorite thing the Flat Five sing. Go buy their record already!
p.p.s. The matchbooks are in. You get one with every book you order.