The First Snow In Minnesota


It snowed.

The first snow is a big deal in Minnesota. Drivers forget how to navigate the roads; their tires slip and slide under a fresh slick of flakes. We dread the advent of winter because it lasts a month too long, because the days get shorter and darker. At 4:30, before you’ve even left work, the sky is turning velvety and fading into night.

Driving in that dusky, snowy dark makes my hands shake a little. It’s easy to lose control. Have you ever spun out on the highway, felt your car bang and smash up against a guardrail and driven it home to survey the damage? I have. I never fixed the dent. I kept it to remind me not to fuck up again, although sometimes there are forces at work that you can’t fight. Things tend to happen when you’re not ready for them.

The first snow is still magical, though. You forget about winter as soon as spring emerges. We’ve learned that’s the best way to deal with it; just push it out of your brain entirely. Everything changes so much overnight that it’s hard not to feel like a child when you wake up, to stifle the urge to run outside and leave your stompy footprints all over that fresh whiteness.

Everything decaying on the side of the road gets hidden under a layer of powder; overnight, there’s no trash, no beer cans, no castoff souvenirs from a night out lying there on the concrete. It’s all been beautifully erased overnight.

When it snows, it’s easier to hide.

It had snowed the day I told you I didn’t love you anymore. I watched your tracks out the door, and then I lay down on the rug, in the little space between the couch and the coffeetable, and cried my heart out. People always use that expression, but I literally felt it all just go right out my chest and out the window into the trees.

We can be so casually cruel to each other, so careless with words. I remember every time you hurt me. I remember everything you said. I always thought about writing it down and keeping it in a little notebook just to remind myself that things get better and that time numbs all those little paper-cut pains, but that winter I gave it all away to the sky and the snow instead. Sometimes you just need to go outside to remember that you’re very small, that your heartaches and problems and all those thoughts clogging up your head aren’t that big and important at all.

Nature bounces back. Nature can take the pain. The snow doesn’t care about the destruction of the months before, the mess of summer and fall. It just covers it right up and keeps it safe for spring’s eventual renewal.

Outside, the world is bright and clean and silent. The lake peeks through a new sheet of ice in little starburst patterns, and the ducks find the water and sit together in fluttery bunches. Only the crunch of snow under my shoes reminds me that I exist out here, right now. Each breath feels crystalline.