Not a Word for the Snow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI rise early in the morning, before the light has changed from midnight to the gray that precedes the dawn. A look out the window confirms the wisdom of this. It has snowed—perhaps five inches—and is snowing yet, rather steadily.

I debate the order of things. Coffee? Shower? Shovel? Shower first. If I go out there now I’ll simply have to clean off the car again before I leave.

By the time I am washed and dried and sprayed in place, the light is graying. I layer pants, t-shirt, sweatshirt, two pairs of socks, snow pants, boots, coat, gloves, mittens, scarf. No hat to mess up my hair.

Then I step out into silence.

No cars. No wind. No branches swaying.

No snowblowers.

I lean against the cold brick arch that frames my door, dumbstruck. I have never, even in the middle of the night, ever heard silence outside of my house. My house which stands but a hundred or so feet away from a four-lane highway, from whose windows through the bare trees I can see the exit ramps for the freeway.

And then I realize that it is not quite silent. There are birds. Small voices piercing through the cold, calling me to take up my task.

Then my boots. Then the taking up of the shovel. Then the Scrape.

But even metal on concrete sounds soft, hushed by the snow that fell silently all night and which now shames all sounds. A semi truck lumbers down the highway, but says not a word for the snow.

The gray light eases to pink.

And still no one on my street is about. All sleep soundlessly in their beds.

I ask the snow to move aside, show it a better place to lie. At my suggestion, bare sidewalk appears at my feet and I walk slowly on, up and down the sidewalk, back and forth along the driveway.

And each slow scrape of my shovel wakes one more person in my town.

They do not realize what it is that wakes them, for the sound of it is but a whisper, but when they wake they know they have slept too long, let the snow go unchecked. With each scrape they rise and hurry into their clothes.

I see a car. Then a truck. The sky is white. This city is stirring now and I know my time runs short.

I come to the end of my task and turn to see my great accomplishment. But the bare sidewalk lies beneath new snow that does not know about the arrangement I made with its kin on my slow walk toward the street.

But I haven’t time to explain. I must go in. I must remove all of my clothing and step into something more suitable.

Inside again. Melting snow drips from my hatless head and sweat slicks my back and my neck. I tear away my wet clothes. The house is hot. Too hot. Who turned the heat up so high? Then I remember. I did. I turned it up this morning after leaving the cave of my bed.

And I want to write the silence down immediately, before it escapes, before the magic melts off.

But I can’t. I take up my hairdryer, my mascara, my necklace.

I slip once more out the door.

And all I can hear is an army of snowblowers.