Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5: First Snow

Driving south to Bath this morning, I was surprised when the slushy rain changed over to big snowflakes. The snow was even sticking, forming some wide roadside patches. Although last month we had light snowfall along the ridgeline of the Camden Hills, that doesn't really count as "first snow" for me because I didn't get to touch it. Now wet flakes coat my hair, if just for the brief moments I am outside my car.

The first snowfall has the power to transport me into the near future. I catch myself thinking about what I might give my family members for Christmas and how I hope to snowshoe on a river front property in Belfast that will become a new Land Trust preserve in late December, looking for winter finches in the old farm fields there. These thoughts anticipate the pristine blankets of snow that decorate picture postcard views of "winter in New England" that show up on mass-produced calendars you get from your insurance agent or fuel guy. They bring to mind the serene winter scenes depicted in 19th century woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) by such Japanese masters as Hiroshige and Hokkusai--snow-draped bare branches curving over a busy footbridge, the cone of snow-whitened Mount Fuji, snow decorously trimming the eaves of a tea house or temple...

Yet now even the snow that dusted a shorn corn field just an hour ago has melted away, and the snow has transitioned back to rain. And I'm brought back to the reality of weather on the Maine coast, where our snow often melts into rain, or worse, sleet or ice. Not that I'm really ready for winter yet anyway. But maybe the transitory beauty of those first fluffy flakes falling on the still-gold leaves has better prepared me for winter's imminent onset.

First falling snow flakes
brush the burnished autumn leaves,
melt in their gold fire.

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