Thursday, November 17, 2011

Then the Snow

I'm sitting in a darkened apartment, looking out the front windows on a world covered in thick white. The flakes that twirled down from late afternoon until evening have slowed for now, leaving the sky a milky pink and the branches of our front tree heavy-laden with it, like grocery-store lofthouse cookies only with perhaps quadruple the frosting. I'm not sure how many inches have fallen -- maybe five? Everything looks pillowy and soft, even the street.

I spent the last week in Chicago, meeting with my dissertation committee and seeing beloved friends. It was balmy in Illinois, many of the trees still aflame with their autumnal glory. I walked with my coat unzipped. I crunched through fallen leaves. And everywhere I went, in one of the most uncanny reminders of our connectedness, I saw posters advertising winter in Montana. All over Rogers Park, on the sides of buses, and inside the Red Line train cars that wander north and south and back again through the city, Montana tourism ads boasted about the snow, the skiing, the bison stark brown and encrusted with ice on the ends of their goatees. Friends would refer to these ads in welcoming me back into town, commenting on the loveliness of the photos.

Mostly, I felt their strangeness. I felt them as a reminder of the place I now call "home," even in that place I had considered home for five years, the longest-running abode since I left my parents' house for college more than ten years ago. Returning to Chicago, seeing its skyline lit up as the plane landed one evening last week, climbing down to the train, walking down the streets I had walked hundreds, thousands of times, seeing my people--oh, my people--I felt such a jolt of familiarity and an upsurge of homesickness for them. But seeing those Montana posters nearly every day of my visit, and hearing Josh's voice on the phone, and thinking of the views from my windows and the quiet pace of life, I realized that my place, for now, in the transient space of life-in-between, is this stark and snowy land, this valley hemmed in on all sides by mountains and prone to seven- or eight-month winters.

And it is lovely. The snow's heavy blanketing, its way of erasing distinctions and leaving a world with blurred edges and nighttime glow, is lovely. It is also treacherous, treacherous in a way I feel in my bones as I pray for Josh on his drive home from work. That is the shape of life, though, isn't it? The beauty and the danger, vitally joined like hydrogen and oxygen in the molecules frozen over everything  I see tonight. We take them together, and try to focus on the glimmer and wonder.

1 comment:

  1. What a hyperreal little detail... those strange Montana ads in Chicago. Home is becoming more and more of an abstract concept to me.