On the Beauty of Extreme Weather

16Dec07

What? Only two inches of slush? That’s not a storm! It’s a transition, a pause, a hiccup and (most of all, after all the buildup) a disappointment. But seriously, do you remember the time — we were still in school then, so it would have been at least 100 years ago — when it snowed for days and days, so that we forgot what cars (and for that matter, streets and sidewalks) looked like because they were all buried? Of course the economy suffered and threatened to send us all into a deep malaise — snow is so inefficient — but it somehow calmed us down to see people in snowshoes and cross-country skis, or just walking ten feet above their former and future daily lives. Or maybe it was just the magical silence that descends upon the city after such a storm, so that for once everyone seems to be talking in whispers. In any case we were happy for a few hours and knew it; perhaps it’s the ephemeral nature of snow, obvious to us even then, that made us so appreciative.

But even better than the storm itself, if you remember, was how we hiked into the middle of the park and unexpectedly (because we were completely alone) saw the woman in the white coat. The coat was quilted and puffy — presumably filled with down — but full-length and then some, so that her boots (also white) could barely be seen poking out from under the hem, while seven or eight feet up (she was that tall), her head was covered by a big white hood. It was one of the most preposterous, impractical things we could have imagined and yet — in the context of this most extreme winter storm — so perfect and beautiful, and we will never forget how the coat camouflaged her against the arctic tundra in which we suddenly found ourselves, and how she moved very slowly but deliberately — with tranquility, even — across the grainy, snow-pelted landscape. It was really an act of theater, and you may disagree, but we will always feel comforted by the idea that before she disappeared over the hill, she turned her face in our direction and knew that the greatest moment of her life (and one for which she had obviously prepared) had been witnessed.

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