Winter’s Arrival

The first snow fell Friday night. Rain that followed us on the drive from the City turned to wet slushy flakes in the colder Upstate temperatures, but still we were surprised. The Large Breed seemed nonplussed until his walk around midnight, when about an inch of snow blanketed his world, and a switch went off inside his head: how good it is to roll around in the stuff; how to make doggie snow angels; how to plow his nose through and enjoy the frosty splendor on doggie lips and tongue. But his paws must have been cold, because he chose a round-a-single-block route for his walk, then nestled onto his blanket on the porch for a long winter’s nap.

Though the official arrival of Winter isn’t due until mid-afternoon on December 21, it arrived for us with the snow, and with a traditional celebration in our little town, held each year on the first Saturday of December. From five until eight in the evening, the main street is closed and people from communities all around gather for Winter Walk. The celebration began in 1997 to help lurch along a nascent renaissance of a community that for decades had seen a dwindling of manufacturing and increase of plywood on storefronts and homes. Now, over twenty-thousand participants come each year to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, live reindeer and miniature horses, roving carolers and Victorian characters, street performances by musicians and dancers, stilt walkers and even fire throwers, and to shop and dine at around one hundred shops and restaurants in the downtown area. I think back to the first Winter Walk, how good it must have felt for organizers to be doing something to make change happen in a place once tainted, with a lovelier side than it had willed to show for a long time.

Because TBM was on his hands and knees in our bedroom wearing a respirator (still finishing floors, we are, our Thanksgiving deadline having clucked on by) I attended Winter Walk alone last night. That’s not true: the Large Breed came along, and I think he was a bigger hit than most of the official attractions. How could he not be, at 125 pounds of long, thick fur and a doggie face that melts hearts young and old? I’ll bet we were stopped fifty times so he could be loved on; double that for the number of people who asked, “What kind of dog is he?” Alaskan Malamute, I would say and be greeted by surprise either because the asker hadn’t heard of the breed, or had never seen one so big. But a cute boy of about ten knew exactly what the Large Breed was, telling me he’d taken a quiz to know what kind of dog he was most like, and Malamute was his match (curious, I just took the quiz myself: I’m like an Australian Shepherd. HUGE compliment!!!)

Ah, Winter. I really enjoy the season. First of all, I love the change of seasons. I’ve lived before in places where a change isn’t very noticeable or doesn’t happen at all, but for me life is richer for the altering of ritual, routine, and wardrobe that come with the tilting of the earth and the waxing or waning of the sun’s rays on the planet. I love nesting in wintertime, cozying up in sweaters and scarves, making stews and soups, baking aromatic breads and sweets. And I love me a good snowfall, so Friday’s inch left me longing for the First Real Storm; the chance to sit in our bay window and watch flakes fall then get a good workout clearing steps, walks, and decks of their white burden. Maybe I’ll mind winter when I’m sixty, but for now, bring it on.