An opportunity to look anew at the world

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We’ve had a couple of good snows lately. It’s a lovely excuse to take a walk with the dog and my son, with a long-lensed camera. I love seeing what he finds interesting, what attracts his eye and how he frames what he sees. We poke along, stopping even more than the dog would prefer. So much to see and to take in.

Our neighborhood is a wonder in the snow, the tall trees frosted, bare limbs against a close, slate gray sky. An extravagance of plant textures: spiky bursts, waxy rounded leaves, globes of red berries trembling on frail-looking stems. Fences’ every vertical and horizontal graced with white. A homely, forgettable concrete block wall in an alley looks like the moat enclosure of a Japanese castle. The cracked paving of the same alley is transformed into a postcard: one pair of tire tracks curving away on the fresh white surface, a staccato of rabbit and cat paw prints weaving among them.

I’ve always loved the way that snow erases edges and boundaries. Sidewalks disappear; curbs and streets are rendered in the same pristine white that layers delicately on every single branch and twig above. Ugly things get a temporary reprieve. Wildness takes over even the most civilized, paved, orderly places, if only for a fleeting time.

The best response, always, is to enjoy it. To revel outside in the new beauty, or to sit in a warm room watching it fall and collect silently on the world, listening to your own breathing. A world being made anew, magically touched with uncountable numbers of ice crystals, each one unique. The very disruption of routine is a blessing, an invitation to see ordinary things with new eyes.

This poem by Mary Oliver is a fine way to get in the mood for snow. Try reading it aloud a few times to yourself — or better yet, some friends — and see what images or phrases touch your imagination. It makes for a rich conversation, to discover what delights others, and compare notes on where the images take you.

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