I look at the almost empty fridge. Then I look at my perpetually hungry sons. It’s official. The trek to the grocery store cannot be put off any longer. Outside the window everything is blanketed with snow. Thick heavy flakes are fall steadily rom a dreary dull sky. We don our winter gear – a lengthy operation – and I gather the bags and sling. “No!!!!!” wails the toddler. “Wanna walk!”. I tell him it’s too snowy outside. He disagrees. We march out the door at last, halting on the porch to lock the door behind us.
I turn to find the toddler facing me, arms reaching up. He blinks snow from his lashes, his face contorted in displeasure. “Want sling!”. Of course he does. I awkwardly haul him into the sling and stand on a lower step while my eldest struggles to fasten the strap over my bulky coat. Then we’re off, trudging through the snow in single file.
The world is silent in a way that only happens when this white carpet spreads out across the city and hushes everything. Heavy clouds hang above, too laden-down to move until they shed their load. People linger indoors instead of venturing out into the softly falling flakes. There’s nothing to hear but the steady and satisfying crunch, crunch of our boots in fresh virgin snow. Footprints trail behind us briefly before fat flakes fill them in again. Cold wet kisses on our cheeks. Puffs of breath hanging in the air.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Occasionally there’s the sound of a muffled engine in the distance. It’s far too soon for the snow vehicles to be out. That call will be made late at night when the snow finally stops falling. For now the weather has free reign and the streets are decorated with odd drifts. The wind sculpts the delicate powder into bumps and swirls. Unusually, the toddler is silent. He hangs limp on my chest and quietly observes the living snow globe we’re passing through.
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
In through the door of the store shaking snow off our boots onto already sodden mats. An onslaught of warmth, noise and other people. We squeeze through aisles in search of supplies before queueing and filling the bags to the brim. Then it’s back out in to the silent chill. Laden down with bags and toddler, the journey home seems twice as long.
Now the breeze blows icy flakes straight into our eyes. Even the usual exuberance of my eldest is muted. He no longer capers about, pausing to stick an arm or foot deep into a mound of snow. Instead we march, heads down through a growing sea of white. It’s slow and physical work, but the quietness and steady crunch below my feet is oddly peaceful. Watching and feeling the world being freshly painted clean. Everything brand new ahead, just our tracks stretching behind us. Soon they disappear again as if we were never here.
Back on our porch we kick off the snow and make a watery trail in to unload the groceries. I go back out to do the first clearance of snow from our porch today. The shovel moves easily through the soft layers and I fling powder to the sides. It adds more height to the hulking sheets of dirty old snow slowly being compressed to ice. The top film melts periodically during the days only to freeze solid in the sub-zero nights. Aside from trails and paths that have been cleared to keep the city mobile, the rest of the ground will remain buried under ice until warmer weather finally returns to melt even the dregs away.
Tomorrow the snow will have stopped falling. The skies will be clear and bright, swept free of the clouds. Snow ploughs will clear the main thoroughfares leaving heaped mountains of snow in their wake, sparkling in the sunlight. That’s tomorrow. For the rest of today, we hibernate.