26 December 2004

After the (snow)fall

I was probably up for a good half hour before I looked out the window yesterday. I wonder what my face looked like when I realized what I was looking at.


Not just a dusting, not just frost, but an honest-to-goodness few centimeters of snow covering almost everything. In the tropical Rio Grande Valley? On not just any day, but Christmas morning? I knew the night before, it was cold, the roads were treacherous icy (nobody's prepared for it here), and someone had said something about ice coming down, but I never in my wildest dreams expected there to be snow.

Admittedly, it was melting fast even then, and I soon realized that this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. According to one of the local papers i quoted a couple of days ago, the last measurable amount of snow anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley was 1924. I got dressed, threw on my much-loved-but-seldom-needed leather bomber jacket and my hat from Alice Springs, grabbed my digital camera, and started to walk over to uni.

On the way over, I started to get a little emotional. I'm Canadian, and so snow and Christmas are inextricably linked. I hadn't really been feeling much in holiday spirit for lots of reasons, but no matter how much your rational mind is telling you, "This is just an improbable coincidence of freak weather," the little kid inside is going, "Santa came and brought snow just for me."

(Later in the afternoon, I realized that I don't think I'd seen snow for over five years. I haven't seen any here before yesterday, and I sure didn't see any in Australia.)

I walked around campus and took a lot of high-resolution pictures. I saw a family drive up and get out of their SUV and run around throwing snowballs at each other. I saw some grackles and feral cats that I suspected were mighty confused. I saw the melting snow falling like rain from the tree branches, and even some actual, factual, no kidding, icicles. It was really beautiful, and I felt fortunate to be there to see it. Because I was. And I kept telling the part of my brain that was reminding me of the economic damage caused to crops and the likely number of accidents on the road to shut the hell up.

Partway through my walk around campus, I realized that there was something I just had to do. One last requirement before I walked back home and watched the snow melt from the comfort of the inside of my apartment. I didn't have gloves, so it was chilly work, but definitely worth it to create something that few people will ever have a chance to make or even see.

A Rio Grande Valley snowman.

By mid-afternoon, there was almost no trace that there had been snow at all.

But I'll remember.

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