Elisabeth Strillacci: What comes with the snowfall

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2023

By Elisabeth Strillacci
For the Salisbury Post

When was the last time you built a snowman?

Having lived in Connecticut for 26 years in the middle of my life, it’s not really fair for me to answer that, but I did grow up here in the Piedmont, and can remember as a child getting enough snow to build a snowman or three.

I have pictures and 8mm film to prove it if you doubt me!

Building snowmen, sledding the golf course, making snow angels, all things that I did, right here in the middle of North Carolina as a child, are memories that I cherish as the weather gets colder.

Unfortunately, over the years, our winters have become more about rain and ice and less about snow. I don’t miss the never-ending gray of winter in New England, mind you, but I do miss the magic of a snowfall.

Maybe in truth it’s just the magic that I miss. The magic of the snow covering everything in a pristine white blanket, and silence during the snowfall when it’s so quiet you can actually hear the flakes falling. Snow even has a scent that is ever so light, but if you stop and wait, you will pick it up on the breeze that always comes with it.

The Farmer’s Almanac, which boasts an 80-85 percent accuracy rate, says this winter ahead will be another one of rain for us. Some snow will fall in the mountains, but even there, not much. El Nino means a wet winter, not a snowy one, sadly.

So how can I find that magical feeling that I so love about a fresh snow fall?

I think the feeling comes from a sense of awe, of wonder and of connection.

I am in awe of what nature creates, how it freezes individual bits of moisture into flakes that are all unique, and that those tiny flakes come together to create a substantial enough collection that it covers everything — roads, houses, streets, yards, plants, cars, all of it. And in covering it all, it makes it both clean and uniform. It makes it all the same — new Mercedes and old Toyotas, expensive landscaping and hardscrabble ground, it’s all just white stuff. It levels the playing field for a minute.

It fills me with wonder that the silence and the peaceful atmosphere brings everything to a stop, just for a moment. I don’t know anyone who is not inclined, if only for a second, to stop and watch the snow fall.

And connection because we’re all impacted by it, whether schools are canceled, work is delayed, roads are closed or we just have to turn up the heat, we are all affected by a snowfall.

It makes me feel we are, in fact, still one body, one group of humans affected together, and it reminds me that we still need each other. If I have a four-wheel-drive Jeep and you need a ride because you can’t drive in snow, I’m not going to ask about your beliefs or your politics or, gasp, your sex life. I’m going to open the passenger door for you.

Snow, in all its beauty and simple elegance and yes, it’s effect on our lives, has a way of bringing us all back to the same table. Shared dinners by candlelight when the power goes out, shared warmth by fireplaces for those who have none, shared car rides among those who have vehicles equipped for the weather, shared company among those who are alone and should not be.

A cup of hot chocolate, as it were, for our souls. That’s what snow feels like to me.

So I am sorry we are not going to be seeing much of it this year, if at all. But I would suggest we can still capture that awe, that wonder, that connection, if we are willing to behave as if we do have snow, even if it’s not actually here.

If you help a neighbor by giving them a lift somewhere, or by checking in because you know they are alone in the early-dark days; if you volunteer at the shelter or soup kitchen now and then; if you just say hello to those you pass on the street as you walk, I can guarantee you, the sense of awe, and of joy, will be there.

I can’t invite you to build a snowman with me, this year at least. But I can invite you to experience the feeling you get when the snow falls, and in that moment, all seems right and beautiful in our world.

Elisabeth Strillacci is former editor of the Salisbury Post.