The flakes began to fall about an hour ago. Now the world is monochrome, dusk spreading across the landscape along with the intensifying snow. There is little wind and, unusually, the flakes fall straight down. We are told the wind will pick up overnight, making travel difficult at best. Our evening clients all cancelled or came in earlier today, so we are safely home.
The ease we experience during snow is a function of the modern. Our larder is comfortably full, our home snug against the wind and cold; we have no real reason to journey out into the storm. If need be we can build a fire in the wood stove and get along comfortably for a few days without electricity. There are no animals to milk or feed, no water troughs demanding we break and clear their ice so the critters can drink. We will not get lost in the white on our way to or from the barn; we don’t even have a barn.
The ease is seductive, and we can easily forget that storms remain dangerous, even lethal. Strong winter storms and deep cold challenge our hubris. Recently a college student, nineteen, went drinking without dressing for the extreme cold, passed out on his way home, and died. He was not the first.
The beauty of snow storms and their cold aftermath is much applauded in New England’s literature and film, although their lethality is nearly always a subtext troubling the tranquil landscape. That picturesque journey by sleigh through the snow clothed night wood has its hazards, crossing the frozen river its treacheries. It makes sense to go home early if one is able, and if possible, stay there til the storm passes.