February 16, 2013


There's an unsung thing about snow one seldom hears or sees in print. To skiers, of course, snow is an absolute, authentic, certified, indubitable, well-founded necessity. To snowbirds fleeing northern climes for sand and sun, the presence of snow is absurd, contrary, impractical, and un-American to a normal way of life.

The truth is God brings or denies snow to neither snow hugger or hater. Instead, The Boss lays an occasional blanket over the land so, for a brief time, we won't have to see what we've done to it.

Snow does indeed hide a bunch of environmental damage. It's sort of like donning a new Armani suit over underwear you put a finger through while pulling it on.

Got a pasture full of weeds?

Knapweed or owl clover or cheatgrass is something you can overlook while snow hides them from you and the world. But after that snow burns off in March or April--when the darker green circles of leafy spurge begins to show on hillsides and in valley bottoms--the rancher or farmer knows he can no longer ignore the problem.

Snow can soften the harsh edges of eroded gullies, or shroud fields with topsoil blown into the next county.

Snow hides the scars of off-road-vehicle misuse, easing the pain of rutted roads and muddy trails and paths. It hides clawed hills and dunes and pastures. It blankets the raw truth of where spinning wheels tore away a trail tread, or where wild riders cut switchbacks, or made their own trails into forbidden places.

A fresh coat of snow blanketing a valley equalizes the dwelling places of everyone, making a picture of smoke rising from a cozy, weatherbeaten bungalow more charming than porticoes of million dollar estates. You see, there are no ghettos amid snow--only people cozened in their shelters, relaxing, recovering, and relearning about each other and themselves.

Snow covers alike junkyards and behind-the-garage hulks. It covers logging clearcuts as well as wilderness meadows and gravel pits as well as manicured parks. Snow blankets run-down factories and upscale golf resorts, supermarket parking lots and city beaches, graveyards and grade schools.

It's the great leveler--snow. The guy or gal driving a Porche is just as vulnerable to ice or drift or whiteout as the family in the 14-year-old Chevrolet. When snow takes a tree down across a powerline, lights go out in both mansion and mud hut.

Maybe that's why Eskimos worked with snow instead of against it, burned whale oil instead of Gulf oil, murmured among families instead of shouting in mobs.

The history of periods of snow are histories of periods of
peace. Indians seldom rode to war when snow blanketed their longhouse or tipi. And when warmongers tried to breach the forgiveness of snow and the dangers of cold and winter they met a foregone fate--as happened to both Napoleon and Hitler.

There's purity in a fresh blanket of snow. Perhaps it's a
metaphor for a new birth, new life, new way of looking at things.


Next week? Another walk on the wild side.


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ROLAND'S Campfire Culture blog


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