I Know Snow

Suddenly the sky turned grey;
The wind, which was bitter and chill,
stood soft and still…

In high school I was introduced to the musical idea known as a tone poem. I got the concept, but just barely. A tone poem is musically abstract, with a flowing, non-repeating melody, but no beat to follow (because tone and mood, not metre is emphasized). It sings like a poem is read, and is very evocative.

The one I remember was about the early stages of a snowfall, and captured exactly the experiences I had approximately 200 times before leaving Western New York. Today it snowed in the Washington DC area and the snow fall is exactly as described in that song. Traffic was snarled for the AM rush, but snarles seemed from my vantage point to be caused by the authorities not doing their jobs this time, not the drivers. Unusual. Drivers in this area normally check their brains at the door when someone whispers the word “snow” within three blocks of hearing. Today I saw exactly appropriate caution and patience, and I also saw bridges that had not been prep’ed and exit ramps that had not been treated. Without spin-outs, the conditions on those ramps and bridges would have caused massive tie-ups. With the spin-outs, traffic was backed up for miles near my home with drivers trying to get to the district. And I’m 12 miles from that point.

I learned to drive in snow.
I. Know. Snow.
Snow is a friend of mine.
This is not snow.

Lloyd Bensten, 1988.

We’ll get nothing like the snow New England got yesterday, I hear, where two of my brothers live. And we’ll get nothing like the exteme rain that Seattle endured (hi, Sr. Pat. I hope you’re doing okay!). But DC thinks it’s a southern town. It doesn’t understand snow – that’s an alien concept, an alien landscape to the natives from below the Mason-Dixon line. That’s a pity, because the children remember. Snow is the stuff of Christmas, and of toys and laughter. I suspect its driving and the awful commutes that erase the memories of snow from the brain, and replace it with fear and dread of slippery streets, white-knuckle driving and heart-pounding near misses.

It’ll be a slow trek home. The snow will be beautiful.

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