Saturday, December 20, 2008

my first winter

The current president of my alma mater, Oberlin College in Ohio, sent out a nice holiday e-mail today to all the alumni who've registered e-mail addresses. The e-mail was lined with little thumbnail photos which linked to the college website and a wonderful slideshow of winter images. The most beautiful, magical photo (below) caught my eye because it brought back intense memories of my first winter.

I grew up in California, in the San Francisco Bay area, where it does not snow at sea-level (or more properly Bay-level) where we lived. One spring break in high school my family went up to the ski areas of the Sierra Mountains, but although there was snow on the ground, it was warm in the sun and we ran around in shirt sleeves making snowmen for a day. Not exactly "winter."

One of the reasons that I went away to college in Ohio was because I wanted to experience four real seasons. My freshman year (1969-70) the first snow flurries appeared in late October, but the first real snow that accumulated was in mid-November. I remember so clearly walking across Tappan Square (a huge open tree filled area at the edge of campus) towards the buildings in the picture (above), it was not late, but after dark, a light snow was still falling, and snow covered the ground and trees just as they do in this photograph. At night, with building and street lights shining on the snow, it was magic, a fairytale kingdom.

I also remember, four days later, when the snow was still six inches on the ground, the cold wind stung my cheeks, and my feet were wet in shoes unsuitable for snow that it had never occurred to me that there was more to snow than just the beautiful fresh falling moment. I'd never thought about the unpleasant realities of having to go to work and classes in snow (and in college to slog through snow just to get something to eat in the dining hall). My first winter was a very snowy, and very cold winter, and I had plenty of opportunity to learn the realities of life with snow.

To this day, I still am overcome with wonder at the first real snow. But am glad I live further south, and can expect it to disappear again with in a few days most of the time.

The beautiful photo is by Dale Preston, Oberlin Class of 1983.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo and reminiscences. I have lived in places where it gets that cold, so I know what you mean, when the air is so cold you lose your sense of smell just breathing!