What the snow reveals

snow on leaves

Despite preemptive school closings and dire warnings of Black Ice, only a dusting of snow fell here last night — not even enough to cover the ground. A good snow, glistening contentedly in the morning sun, reflecting the clean clear blue sky after the cold front, hides the mess we’ve made of the world and gives the illusion of purity, a new beginning — “a revolution of snow,” as Billy Collins writes:

its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished…
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

But the world was already fallen, and Boris Pasternak thought the snow’s motives less than pure, seeing rather

That snow falls out of reticence,
In order to deceive.
Concealing unrepentantly
And trimming you in white

For Pasternak, indeed, snow may be nothing more than the Altoids on the breath of an alcoholic:

…for all I know,
Someone has something sinful to
Conceal in all this snow!

Had our snow any such pretensions it failed utterly. Like a bad lie it reveals more than it conceals — the broken stems, the unraked leaves, the litter of pine straw, lifting each imperfection from the damp earth into bright relief. Last night the city lights illumined every powdered chassis in a used-car lot, shapes that warm and dry would dissolve at thirty miles an hour into blurred forms of light and metal instead made distinct, unique, thrust into vision and forced upon consciousness. Today snow coats the wooden porch but melts at the touch of metal screws, laughing at the secret of its host’s construction. A muddy piece of trash in the wood, camoflauged by the endless layered browns of winter, becomes a jarring regularity in the chaos. Every footprint is revealed.

And yet: somehow beautiful nonetheless.

We want our sins to be wiped clean, but some days, we only get them made pretty. Some days it will have to be enough.

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