Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"It is delightful when there has been a thin fall of snow."

{Photos by rocketlass.}

Having mentioned Sei Shonagon the other day, it seems right to draw on her to commemorate the passing last weekend of the snow that had been our companion here in Chicago for the past month. Amounting to nearly two feet by the time it began to give up the ghost, the snow showed a tenacity unmatched in my memory of sixteen Chicago winters, while the occasional addition of an inch or two of lake effect snow kept it looking lovely, effectively masking the depradations to which it was subject as punishment for having chosen to fall in this urban environment.

In her Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon mentions snow several times, but today I'll stick to my two favorites. First, this list, which I enjoy in part because of the material picture it gives of Sei Shonagon's surroundings:
Things That Fall from the Sky

Snow. Hail. I do not like sleet, but when it is mixed with pure white snow it is very pretty.

Snow looks wonderful when it has fallen on a roof of cypress bark.

When snow begins to melt a little, or when only a small amount has fallen, it enters into all the cracks between the bricks, so that the roof is black in some places, pure white in others--most attractive.

I like drizzle and hail when they come down on a shingle roof. I also like frost on a shingle roof or in a garden.

Then this, a simple description of the way snow throws objects seen against it into powerful relief:
One Day, When the Snow Lay Thick on the Ground

One day, when the snow lay thick on the ground and was still coming down heavily, I saw some gentlemen of the Fourth and Fifth Ranks who had a fresh complexion and a pleasant, youthful look. Their beautifully coloured Court robes, which they wore over their night-watch costumes, were tucked up at the bottom and showed the marks of their leather belts. Their dark purple trousers stood out beautifully against the white snow. I could also see their under-jackets, some of scarlet, others dyed a beautiful rose-yellow. The men had opened their umbrellas, but since it was very windy the snow came at them from the side and they bent forward slightly as they walked. The sparkling white snow covered them all the way to the tips of their lacqurered leather shoes or short clogs--a magnificent sight.
Unlike winter itself, assuming it someday deigns to depart, the snow will be missed.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I like winter the best when the snow has melted and everything is bone dry. Fields of golden grass in the bright winter sunshine; the roads dusty with the mineral deposit of road salt. I won't miss the snow; but I always miss (and look forward to) these cold, bright, dry winter days.