I can count the number of times I’ve seen snow on two gloved hands. It happens in Portland maybe once a year. When it does---or might and, usually, doesn’t---it’s the talk of the town. Schoolteachers make announcements to their classrooms and snow becomes the only topic of polite chatter in the grocery store checkout. “Looks like it’s going to snow, huh?” The day before its arrival we all watch the sky, every one of us an amateur meteorologist. The cloud cover holds the moisture, but too much won’t let in the cold.
Snow isn’t a unique kind of weather in Oregon. It’s just the rarest form of rain. On the way to “snow” are “the in-betweens,” softer circles of slush hitting the windshields on cars headed home. As kids, we’d sit at the windows, hoping against hope for a snow day. “Will it stick?” The flakes fell and dissolved on contact.
The real snow only ever came at night. Eerie golden spotlights lit the bare tree branches, the snowflakes swirling around streetlamps like gnats in the summer. The mornings were nothing short of magic, but it all melted by noon.
My first snow in New England was something different altogether. I was walking to the bus in mid-November when the sky was blue and a few stubborn leaves still clung to the elm trees. Out of nowhere came the tiniest flurries, the flakes not so much falling as suspended. All around me they were appearing and disappearing, like dust shook out from a rug.
The snow was unlike anything I’d ever seen---unexpected but completely certain. It felt like something was only beginning. It felt like falling in love.