Christmas Snow 2010
As I write this article, we’re in the wake of our second major snowstorm this season – several inches of pretty snow capped with an ugly layer of ice. I’m stuck in a condo in Atlanta, negotiating slippery sidewalks with an elderly terrier. My plans to drive up to the Uwharries for the week are literally on ice. Buster isn’t happy about any of this, and neither am I. Just a few weeks ago, the snow was a joyous occasion, arriving in the Uwharries on Christmas like a gift.
We waited all day for it to begin. When rain set in, we almost lost faith. Finally, after dark, we spotted the first sloppy flakes. By bedtime, it was pure enough to set out bowls for snow cream. My niece and nephew suited up and started on a snowman. Even though some of us had been up since dawn, no one went to bed before midnight. The next morning, the kids abandoned their new electronic games and spent the day outside.
We had plenty of holiday leftovers on hand, so we knew we wouldn’t starve, even if we couldn’t get to the grocery store for milk and bread. When we did venture out, the roads were slushy but passable. The snow seemed content to settle on the trees. Every twig and needle wore a thick and cozy blanket. The canopy became an intricate piece of lace.
The landscape was dreamy, but the sagging powerlines were all too real. They looked awfully vulnerable underneath those laden branches. When we lose electricity in the country, it can be out for a long, long time. Sparsely populated areas of the Uwharries aren’t a priority for the line crews. This time, our power stayed on – a miracle given the windy conditions on Monday.
I stood at the window and watched the wind manifest on the west face of the mountain. With every gust, violent clouds of snow erupted from the pines and cedars, as if the trees themselves had exploded. The clouds swirled and churned a path up the mountain, sometimes settling in pockets like smoke or fog. At dinner the previous evening, my husband’s mother had lamented the younger generation’s overuse of awesome, but this sight earned the word’s true meaning – inspiring a mix of wonder, fear and reverence.
That afternoon, we walked through the woods along the river. There, the forest was calm, troubled only by the scolding songs of chickadees, nuthatches and wrens. The trees were steady and fast. Boulders anchored the river. The water was dark against the snow, the boulders gray. The river seemed as timeless as the wind.
The snow highlighted the lay of the land deep into the forest. It also exposed popular wildlife corridors. We followed dots and dashes through the fields and pastures, as if the animals had left us directions in Morse code. Some of them led to burrows underneath the flattened tufts of grass.
I kept finding excuses to bundle up and roam around with my camera – the morning light was blue; the evening light was golden; the grass was covered; the stalks were emerging; the southwest sky was saturated with neon clouds at sunset. I filled my memory card with inadequate images. After a while, I went back inside and set about cooking and eating and cleaning again, content with a rare indulgence in the Uwharries – tromping through a Christmas snow.
Photographs by Ruth Ann Grissom