On January 3, I looked out my balcony at 6 am to discover snow flurries falling in Washington DC. I couldn’t believe it. I fell asleep dreaming of snow. I woke up ready to make a snow angel. My heart quickened with anticipation.
The first snowfall of the season, blossom sized flakes falling languidly and melting on the ground, a premature snow fall delicate as lace, rapidly melting.”Joyce Carol Oates
Winter Storm Alert
Now the newscasters had been forecasting a Winter Storm Alert on Sunday but I didn’t take it seriously. How often did I get excited about the promise of a snowstorm only to be disappointed because it snowed in Frederick or Front Royal but nary a flake fell in Washington DC?
But my winterlust dream came true. The weather app predicted a 100% chance of snow for the next five hours. There was no time to waste. I pulled on my fleece-lined pants and turtleneck. In the back of my closet, I found my snow boots. Next, I pulled on my ski coat and mittens. Finally, I called my puppy.
“Parker, let’s go play in the snow.”
This would be my puppy’s first snow. I couldn’t wait to see this miracle through his eyes. One of the things I have learned since adopting my puppy in June is that dogs know how to slow down … really halt … to examine their world.
Sniff. Sniff again. Look up. Repeat.
Parker and I would explore a snowy DC together. There was no place that I would rather be now right now than my hometown. Snow instantly transforms any place into a magical realm.
Our destination was the U.S. Capitol grounds because Parker and I like to walk along the curving tree-lined paths designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874. There are favorite benches where we always sit down to cuddle. Parker also likes to watch the squirrels scamper across the West Lawn of the Capitol. Sometimes birds serenade us.
This morning a white blanket covered the Capitol lawn as well as benches. When Parker jumped up, he left perfectly formed puppy paw prints. Then he sat down on the seat and looked mournfully up at me as if to say—“This is cold. Wet. No fun frend (dog spelling for “friend”.)
I laughed out loud. What an adorable pup.
I had dressed him in a yellow rain slicker. While it kept the snow off his back, he was still covered with snow on his head and ears and eyelashes. Those huge brown retriever eyes glistened as he examined me.
“Ok. No more bench. Let’s walk frend.”
The U.S. Capitol grounds looked like a winter wonderland. Snow clung to tree branches. Sidewalks turned into white pathways. The Capitol Christmas Tree stood straight and tall. A snow “lace quilt” covered the white fir from the Six Rivers National Forest in California.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again’.”Lewis Carroll
I am always transported by snow, back to my sentimental memories as a young girl grabbing my Flyer to head for East Silver Spring elementary school for sledding. Despite all my amazing ski vacations as an adult in Mt. Tremblant, Breckinridge, Steamboat Springs, Stowe, and Snowshoe, my most cherished memory is the simple pleasure of sledding as a child.
“Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow.”Edmund Hillary
Now I could experience snow again with a childhood delight through my puppy. As the snow rapidly began to cover all surfaces, Parker watched with fascination. He jumped and rang in circles. Next, he took a bite to sample this icy dessert. Then he laid down and rolled. If I had brought my Flexible Flyer Snow Saucer, I know he would have jumped on it with me to careen down the hill near the U.S. Capitol building.
I raced around in the snow with Parker, gleeful as a schoolgirl to see my boots make a path next to his paw prints. He jumped up to lean his body next to mine. I grabbed him and danced. We were silly in our exuberant embrace of this January snowstorm in the nation’s capital.
In front of my eyes, the naked trees suddenly bloomed with white blossoms. The snow erased the brown patches of earth beneath their limbs. The sturdy oaks, elms, and pines that wore tangerine, red and gold frocks just two months ago looked like old men weighed down by their jacket of crystal and frost. It almost hurt to look at this scene in all its virgin grandeur.
“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bonestructure of the landscape the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”Andrew Wyeth
Eventually, we began to grow quite cold. The snow froze on my knit ski cap. My eyeglasses were frosted. Wet mittens turned my fingers into ice cubes.
And my Golden Retriever puppy turned into a white dog. With the exception of his yellow slicker, every inch of his body was draped with snow. I delighted in his furry tail. The white “flag” flew high in the wind.
“Should we go home Parker?”
U.S. Botanic Gardens
He began to pull me down the sidewalk, barely noticing another human and his dog coming toward us. I had to frequently “brake,” slowing down my steps so I wouldn’t slip and fall. Even though my puppy wanted to lead me back home, I steered us across the traffic circle to the U.S. Botanic Gardens. Our reward was a winter tableau of snow-covered trees, bushes, and plants.
The white holiday lights sparked in the snowstorm, a mirror image of flurries dancing in the wind. Parker chomped away at the snow. We both forgot our cold limbs as we sauntered through the snow gardens. Eventually, I told Parker it was time to go home.
My morning snow trek ended with a heart filled with joy. I will never forget snowflakes kissing my puppy’s nose and his tongue reaching out to taste the crystals.
“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky—unbidden—and seems like a thing of wonder.”Susan Orlean
What I learned today was simple but I frequently forget. Sometimes you can go on an adventure without leaving where you live. Sometimes fun awaits outside your front door.