“It is such a dreary and dreadful day.” The words tumbled out of middle-aged woman’s mouth as two young women with the same pale face and dark hair nodded in agreement. She set down her breakfast burrito and continued, “I could hardly even drag myself out of bed this morning, even to see you.”
My mouth gaped in disbelief and boyfriend glared at me, offering subtle reminders to stop staring. The words stood in such stark contrast to my own experience of the day.
At 9 am on a Sunday morning in mid-February, I peered out the window of our cheap hotel room and felt my body wash over with wonder. For the first time in nearly two decades, I woke up to a blanketing of snow.
I had proposed the trip when I saw precipitation in the forecast, yet could hardly believe my eyes. My car was buried beneath an inch and a half of powder, as was everything else in view. The sight was spectacular. Everything felt calm, peaceful and perfect.
When my boyfriend asked if I had a snow-scraper in my car, I gleefully informed him that he had gifted me one several years prior. When he first brought home that foreign plastic gadget I’d looked it over thoroughly before stating, “dear, I think you’ve finally lost your marbles!”
A friend had joined us for the weekend. Despite having lived in England and South Dakota, she was just as enamored by the ground cover as this lifelong desert-dweller. We plopped down and swept our appendages across on the perfectly level surface, creating prints of awkward angels. We formed our thinly-gloved hands into shovels and playfully tossed the loose chunks towards the sky. We gasped in awe as perfectly symmetrical flakes clung to the fur encircling our smiling faces. We built a miniature snowman in a vacant parking lot and then watched the ravens peck at his carrot nose and gingersnap eyes as we drove away.
My friend giggled before noting that the college town inhabitants donned canvas sneakers and hoodies, while the “old people” like us layered base layers, boots and heavy coats. We browsed a small boutique, where my friend quietly confessed her growing baby fever and smiled slyly as she said, “you’re next, my lady!” We ate artesian chocolates, sipped on hot tea and laughed endlessly. Every moment felt like the first day of my life.
My friend had taken a picture of me shortly before breakfast, reddening face framed by rabbit’s fur and navy wool. In that image, I look the happiest I’ve seen myself in ages, wearing a smile that only emerges under the most particular circumstances. The backdrop was pure white with a sprinkling of weighted-down pine leaves, my gloved hands clutched a small mound of snow and the Duchenne smile stretched across my face said it all.
For thirty hours, the three of us had not a care in the world. We were simply living.
I wanted so desperately to speak up and counter the woman’s comment, to convince her that the day was neither dreary or dreadful, but instead a gift. I held my tongue as my mind filled with thoughts of gratitude and wonder.
As we made our way south down the highway out of town, we watched as towering silhouettes of grey on grey approached and receded as the winds changed course. One last snow flurry embraced us in its arms, as if saying thank you, I love you and don’t go.
I’ve never had to shovel snow, drive through a blizzard or navigate across black ice. I’ve seen only the fun, beautiful and peaceful aspect of winter weather. After a few days back home, I’ve found myself annoyed at the brightness of the sun and missing the wintery bliss. Though the sun supports local wildlife and the blue sky offers its own unique art form, I don’t always appreciate the innate beauty of my home. Instead, I anticipate and celebrate novelty.
While the mini-vacation was a poignant reminder of the nature’s restorative power and the joys of unplugging, perhaps the bigger lesson here is that I can tap into those same feelings of wonder, appreciation and playfulness in my own backyard. I don’t need to seek out lightning storms, forests or snow days to excavate the joy and childlike wonder I uncovered this weekend. Rather, it’s a matter of of looking at usual things with unusual eyes. There is beauty all around us, simply waiting to be noticed.