Snow lovers lament a winter that never was

CITY DIARY: Josephine Trueschler

April 03, 2002|By Josephine Trueschler

DRIVING SOUTH into the city the other morning, we saw a sign in a store window announcing "75% off Winter." That struck a tender spot in the hearts of those of us who love winter. Just give it away, we thought.

How shall we bear the loss of a winter that never was, the real blow that never swept across the state, or even for a morning paralyzed the city?

Shall we go grieving through March, afraid that April, after all, is not, as T.S. Eliot imagined, "the cruelest month"?

Could it be December or February without snow? Who could go lamenting over lilacs when the felt sorrow is that the dead of winter did not bury us under the sudden beauty of snowfall? The hope for snow and sleet, frost and icicle, even for a 2-inch slush, has melted down and out to zero. Zilch.

We did not wake up to the hush of a snowy dawn frozen still in windswept cold. We shoveled no path to the mailbox nor dug the car out of the driveway. We had no sledding to speak of, only a single Saturday midday with not enough practice time to get up a really daring run.

We heard no sound of shouting children, free of a day of school, whirling down slopes on snow saucers. The neighborhood was never busy rolling up snowmen in the front yard.

We did not spend a day at the window listening to the raucous squawking of crows as they gathered in the long green-sleeved pines, flouncing onto the branches to send showers of snow cascading to the ground. We did not have the chance to wonder at the sudden beauty of ungainly crows become lords of the landscape -- so black and vivid and even majestic when seen against the soft white of winter.

We did not spend twilight standing alone in snow-covered streets as darkness came on. The only color then is in the red-streaked lower western sky and the weathered housetops huddling toward black. The stark and lonely look of things on a snowy evening is only beautiful. Everything smells of piercing cold, but there is sometimes a whiff of wood smoke in the air. The feeling of peace and stillness and solitude falls over all, and we are never so happy to stand alone.

Long after dinner, we were not lured out again, longing for one more last trudge just to see the glisten and let the sunless cold try to find every crevice in our clothing so we could feel the winds of winter down the backs of our necks and feel winter in all our bones. We shiver with more than cold in the mysterious austere beauty of a winter night.

Now it is time to pack away mufflers and boots. Time to hang up our hopes for snow. It seems winter or no, spring just comes along. Warm spring-like weather has been with us for weeks. We could gather a whole bouquet of daffodils right this minute. There is nothing to do but to give ourselves over to blossoms and baseball.

In these matters, fate is kind.

Today's writer

Josephine Trueschler is professor emeritus of English at the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. She lives in the Cedarcroft section of Baltimore.

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