Mack Williams: Year’s first snow leaves wintry ‘life mask’

  • Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013 1:09 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, January 28, 2013 1:10 a.m.

The first measurable snow of 2013 received some of the same amount of anticipative hoopla as that currently received by the recently discovered Comet ISON, even though that comet is still somewhere out past the planet Jupiter. In Danville, as well as Salisbury, the multiple-inch snow accumulation prediction turned out to be a “dud,” just as the prediction for Comet Kohoutek’s “show” was years ago (both “duds” having a common snow connection, since the difference between snowball and comet is mostly one of degree rather than of kind).

Stepping outside, late on the night of the much-heralded snowfall, I looked up at an amber-colored street lamp and saw falling , translucent, honey-colored raindrops mixed with quarter-size flakes of opaque snow.


 Early the next morning, just before sunrise, I peered between the window blind slats and saw brightness. The brightness was, however, too thick and white for light, but was instead a painted, pigmented, “grounded” brightness which would soon begin to melt.

 The overnight snow seemed to be just a little above an inch in depth, and enough freezing rain had been mixed in to make it almost “needfully clingy,” much different than the “aloofness” of powdery, dry snow. This mixture had some of the casting quality of plaster of Paris or quick-setting Portland, its lack of its depth leading to finished “snow casts” approximately the same dimensions as those things being replicated.

On approaching my car, I saw, fallen to the sidewalk, a snow-and-ice-cast copy of a section of my 21-year-old Chevy Lumina’s bumper (if cars could drink, mine would just now be reaching legal age).  There were also perfect casts of twigs and limbs falling from trees in the adjacent cemetery. I didn’t walk over and attempt it, but imagined that upon extracting the frozen fillings from the carved cavities of any flat, skyward-facing gravestone , I would have then held in my hands a collection of perfectly ice-molded letters, along with just a few similarly formed numbers.

 When driving, I was surprised to see that one yard contained a most substantial, man-sized snowman, seemingly out of proportion to the amount of snowfall. The quantity of material required for the snowman’s construction consumed all of the snow of its native lawn as well as sizable portions from lawns on either side. It is often said that the proper raising of a child “takes a village,” and in the proper rearing of this snowman, certain “neighborly” contributions were definitely involved!

 In the grocery store parking lot, I saw “castings” from other cars’ bumpers which had melted free from their subjects and dropped to the asphalt. On the way back home, icy replicas of power lines were falling and fragmenting on the city’s sidewalks and streets.

 There are masks taken in plaster of famous men’s  faces in death, but there are also some masks of them made while they lived. The icy casts of cars, trees, rain gutters, power lines , etc. were already melting, falling and shattering with the rising temperature. If by some miracle, however, those icy impressions within the municipal limits could have, early on, been pulled away in one whole connected piece, a frozen winter “life-mask” taken of a Southern city just after sunrise on Jan. 18, 2013 would have then been seen, but not for long.

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