Snow in Portland, Oregon is a rarity. If it is cold enough to snow, then the air is dry. Winter storms more often originate in Hawaii and bring well above freezing temps. A white Christmas is even more rare. Less than a 7% chance. For most of my adult life I lived in the suburbs of Portland with a man who considers snow to be his personal totem. Yeah, we’re weather geeks, often driving to headlands in the Columbia River Gorge just to experience 70 mph winds.
Christmas morning we started the day, not with presents and syrupy French toast, but with a drive up Mt. Hood to experience a bit of snow. Real snow, piles of it, drifts up to the eaves, treacherous footing and driving. So much snow the plows couldn’t keep up with it. Some years the trip only needed to go as far as Government Camp, a mere 4000’ elevation. Other years we had to drive all the way to Timberline at 6000’ elevation. Even then we weren’t always guaranteed enough snow to satisfy the bone-deep craving for the biting cold and white as far as the eye could see (at Timberline Lodge that’s quite a ways) covering the mundane world with a bit of sparkling magic.
So when the opportunity came to move to the mountain, we grabbed it. Our home nestles in at just below 1400’ elevation. Not enough to guarantee a white Christmas, but much better odds than living in Portland and the suburbs with a 23’ elevation. The last two years we’ve had a white Christmas. Our hearts raced with excitement, we sighed with a deep awareness and connection to the elements. Life seemed complete and gifts became unnecessary. We had snow. We laughed, and ran about, getting covered with tiny flakes. We made snow angels. The holiday lights showed through the froze blanket, refracting and sending prisms of colored light in new angles.
We delighted in the season in special new ways.
Last year we actually got snowed in. School dismissed early for the holidays and my dance recital got postponed to mid January, well passed the time when we normally listen to Christmas music and thing dressing up in gaudy red and green is normal. The local grocery store ran out of milk. The airport closed for 3 days so no mail got delivered. The Fed Ex drivers dumped their array of gifts and special orders at their local affiliate and didn’t even attempt to drive off the main highway. We had to go get them, digging through the piles to find one box with our name on it. A lot of holiday doings were delayed or canceled altogether. Something about 3’ of snow and a broken plow with places to go — like work — things to do — like parties — and people to see — like invalid family — and double the heating bills, kind of diminishes the magic.
Still looking out the window at our Christmas tree, at a scene better than an animated e-card, watching the white stuff fall gently through the cedar trees, sending the world into hibernation brings back all the childhood excitement, the special wonderfulness of ifs and maybes. Holidays carols take on new meanings.
The weather gods aren’t going to grant us a white Christmas this year. But as I type this on the first full day of winter, a few flakes drift by my window. I am captured by the gift of snow.
And so I wish you one and all a special holiday season and a greeting card of snow on the mountain.