Snow is beautiful outside the city

To the editor:

A peculiar thing about snow, unlike other elements of nature, is that it is universally disliked by the folks who inhabit cities that are far removed from nature. Bodies of water are welcome, however. The great novel “Moby Dick,” in its glorious first chapter, describes how men in the “insular city of Manhattoes” who spend “week days pent up in lath and plaster — tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks” will “post themselves like silent sentinels all around the town fixed in ocean reveries.”

Trees and green fields are also welcome. There are trees in every neighborhood of New York City. There is rumoured to be one even in Bushwick. (If you do locate this designated Bushwick tree, I surmise you will find it bolted to the pavement.) There are tiny gated gardens in Manhattan where people jostle for benches and enjoy their rare quiet moments or endure a mini-breakdown in silent desperation. (I once went to a fancy restaurant, ordered a pizza, and came out with three tiny pieces of bread-triangles with a pinch of cheese, half-slice of tomato and dash of arugula that did barely anything to satisfy me — these mini-gardens in Manhattan evoke the same feeling.)

Sunrises, sunsets, different phases of the moon, various moods of the skies and rain are all welcome even if the whole half-dome of the heavens is never quite available to the city dweller — the perfect moon, for example, is one that falls right between two skyscrapers as it hangs just above an artificial concrete horizon.

Snow in big towns, however, is brushed off — cast aside and piled up high on the fringes, awaiting its brown and slushy demise. However, here in the Adirondacks, how bewitching is snow! Nature has blanketed all in white, trying to lull us into common sleep. The migratory birds are gone; some animals are hibernating; others lay frozen and dormant underground. The solitude snow brings is otherworldly, perhaps only lesser to what one may encounter in a vast desert. I only hear the crunching sound of the snow as I snowshoe, the crackle of the ice under my crampons.

It delights me to see the branches of the evergreen trees bending under the weight of the snow. The lakes and streams hiding under sheets of ice evoke a sense of muted mystery.

Snow loses its charm in the city, because it loses its meaning when separated from nature. When people pick a favourite among their seasons, it is seldom winter. (Folks who pick favorites among seasons, instead of being equanimous to that which is inevitable, are missing the point — it is tantamount to picking a favourite part of a song and discarding the rest.) Can one blame them? In the city, the notes that winter and its snow brings to the song of seasons are dampened by its concrete, tar and pavement.

I hope the snow continues to beacon folks to the mountains and helps reaffirm its incalculable value.


Nandan Pai

Lake Placid


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