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The Meaning of Snow
Apr 8, 2013
When I vacationed in Alaska a couple of years ago, I learned for the first time that winter can be used as a verb. It means to spend the darkest, coldest months of the year somewhere else. It occurred to me today that the meaning of a simple word like snow is different in South Dakota than it was in my native state of Arkansas.
Down there, snow was an event. You saw it coming if you were lucky, prayed for it if you were pious and eight years old, sat through it over a cup of hot chocolate, and then waited a day or two for it to melt. In the Dakotas, snow isn’t an event; it’s a season. It overlaps the end of fall and the beginning of calendar spring. We wait for it to pass the way Twins fans wait for another winning season. Fortunately the former is something that might actually happen.
The Easter holiday, which begins with Good Friday and ends with Not Half Bad Monday, is a good time to read the history of the snow. Some of it fell softly and evenly and some roared in parallel to the ground like it was being chased by the cops. The wind sculpted the loose power into dunes and new snow iced their tops. Some folks reclaimed their driveways and sidewalks with those modified tillers known as snow blowers. In doing so, they built up one side of the long ramparts that line streets while the snow plows built up the other.
Other folks labored like the Israelites in The Ten Commandments, stooped over their shovels making bricks for Pharaoh. British farmers used to assemble long rock walls along the edges of their fields, not so much because they needed the walls but because they needed something to do with the rocks. So we in these Dakotas build walls of snow along the edges of our yards because it is illegal to shove it back into the streets.
Now those once awesome structures have mostly melted to the height of speed bumps. If you look closely at their texture, it doesn’t look like snow at all anymore. Compacted by its own weight, softened and refrozen almost daily, it’s more like sponge cake. Looking at it now and at the blasted grass it retreats across, I remember how my hair used to have color and how my brother used to have hair.
I have tried to be pleased and educated by every gift that God has given me. Snow is one of those gifts even if it sometimes pleases me too much. I can see why snow is good and I can learn some of the things that it has to teach us. I just think we could learn those lessons well enough by the end of February. The season of snow has gone on long enough. Still, I know the meaning both of winter and summer better because South Dakota has taught me the meaning of snow.
Editor's Note: Ken Blanchard is our political columnist from the right. For a left-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Cory Heidelberger every other Wednesday on this site.