Mack Williams: Melting snow reveals much

  • Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014 1:32 a.m.

No, this week’s column isn’t about that final scene of the 1939 “Wizard of Oz’s” Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), but concerns itself with “the way of all snow” in the temperate zone.

Spring, Summer, and Fall are full of inspiration, but the Winter world is a “world of difference,” especially when it has been the object of precipitation at temperatures of freezing or below.


Just as the gradual “deconstruction” of old textile mills sometimes reveals art’s approximation in certain silhouetted sunset scenes, likewise, snow in its “leaving” can direct the mind to “semele and such.”

A couple of days past the “Great Snow of 2014,” I was able to resume my paths to and from work, grocery store, etc. The increasing temperatures were already doing a little re-carving of snowmen and showing a certain bit of creativity with each major parking lot’s string of pushed “peaks.” In one Food Lion lot, it seemed as if another “lion” had been “melt-sculpted” into the side of a great pile; but while the Food Lion “king of beasts” (and savings) stands on all fours, this one was recumbent, reminiscent of the Great Sphinx.

The Great Snow’s final covering of sleet gave each chunk of piled snow an angular quality. It seemed that the number and variety of angles in each pile even equaled those to be found all the way up the slope of Mt. Everest itself.

In that same parking lot, water was flowing from the bottom of each great heap of snow, almost from one end of the lot to the other, such flow helped by a gentle incline, and of course, gravity. Just as the Yadkin River and Dan River have their watersheds, so did these melt-streams of the Food Lion parking lot have theirs in those temporary mountains of snow.

Driving through town, I felt “pothole turbulence” here and there. Not just the snow was seeping downwards, but some of the asphalt and soil as well.

Streets which had been reduced from two-lane to a half-lane on each side of the middle, were now beginning to widen, such widening in no need of signs saying “men at work.”

What had been so light and fluffy while falling now had weightier “Icee” or “Snow Cone” consistency, each flake replaced by a little bead of ice.

A man who always sports anti-allergen mask when walking through town was coming up Main Street past a gray-to-black wall of scraped snow. After looking at what had been “filtered” there, perhaps I’ll start wearing a mask too!

I looked toward the remains of a snowman in a yard still mostly snow-filled. In the foreground was a series of young shrubs set uniformly, a few feet apart. My attention to the “white” of the snowman continued as my gaze met the snow-covered ground, causing me to see as a “Rorschach” made from the snow and the comparatively “black” bushes. This also reminded me of those “Like when you see it” posts on Facebook.

Since the city’s garbage pick-up was “on” again, I saw a discarded Christmas tree waiting to be carried off. I thought this was strange, as mid-February is much later than even the early January Epiphanal arrival of the Wise Men. (I’ll be surprised if the city fire marshall doesn’t pay that home a visit.)

The tree was decorated with a man-made snow only poorly approximating those exhaust-dirtied remnants of what nature had crafted. Perhaps the family hoped the “Great Snow’s” melting was a sign of Winter’s early departure; and since the tree’s faux-snow covered branches were in mimicry of the season, maybe they thought the time had come for it to go as well.

Snowmen were melting to the point that they didn’t resemble “men” anymore, just vertical “somethings,” vaguely recalling human form (not unlike that “pillar of salt” pointed out by Holy Land locals to the visitors).

These “statues,” however, were in much worse shape than even those ancient ones shaken by earthquakes or sacked by invasions along the Aegean. One seemed so “melt-altered,” that part of its head was replaced with what looked like horns, reminiscent of some Druidic god. In the case of another, its head lay close by on the ground, having not rolled far from the body, which now resembled a skinny pyramid, the whole looking like the “Trylon and Perisphere” of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

In one side yard, children were making snowballs from “shadow snow,” slowed in its melt by lack of the sun’s direct face. There was only enough thickness left to that snow for what they were doing with it, not “the making of men.”

My daughter Rachel had sent me a picture earlier of the birdbath in her backyard. That birdbath had been filled with snow to such a conical extent that it appeared as a “mushroom” (so noted by her), complete with underlying stem (evidently, the feeling for “semele” is genetic). I was sure that in the warmer temperatures, that frozen “fungus” was now becoming a birdbath again.

Even though there were no buds yet on any of the trees, I did see something which reminded me that Easter was not long off. I passed by one tree whose branches had big thorny spikes growing from them. These thorns naturally made me think of Good Friday, as they naturally do with many people, but they also have another personal connotation. They made me think of the little “spiky,” gumdrop tree that my late wife Diane (first-grade teacher) always put on her classroom desk around Eastertime, a gumdrop impaled on each “thorn.”

When I got back home, I found that the path through which my car had exited the road-scraped “snow wall” had been melted wider. Those tire-width spaces of black asphalt would soon expand to encompass the entire street and city itself.

In the cemetery adjacent my home, the “snow steps” of parents and children who had partaken of a very sleddable hill (the part minus tombstones) had also expanded with the melting. This was similar to human tracks in the Himalayan snows which had melt-expand to be regarded as those of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman. These tracks were even bigger than that, now looking as if a herd of elephants (both adults and youth) had gone sledding in the old graveyard. The sled tracks were also widened by the melting, and to such an extent that they appeared to have been made by the most enormous sleds ever built (befitting, of course, any sled capable of bearing the weight of an elephant).

In the “Great Snow of 2014,” the markers in the cemetery had stood out starkly, helped by the contrast between dark gray against white. This applied only to those “epitaphs” which were vertical; the flat-lying ones had been totally covered, making them briefly even more “unknown” than those of the “truly” unknowns themselves.

Pretty soon, the old markers would be camouflaged by the re-exposed, seemingly dead grass of winter and the seemingly lifeless, dead earth; but with Spring, the rising green blades (even those first sprouts of wild onions) would make them stand out in contrast once more.

But in reconsideration: in the coming weeks, when “spring green” is mixed with “dead gray,” perhaps it isn’t the tombstones which will stand out, but “vice-versa!”

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