The words leaped off the cover of the February-March issue of National Wildlife, the magazine of the National Wildlife Federation. Looking directly at me on the cover was an adorable young American marten—a tawny brown weasel with a bushy tail, a species I knew nothing about that evidently builds tunnels under the snow for warmth and easy hunting.
The phrase stayed with me—“The Solace of Snow”—as I awaited a little snowfall here in central Kentucky. This morning, I awoke to Kentucky’s version of a winter wonderland. Out walking Lucy, I talked to a neighbor who was headed to Florida for some sunshine and golf. The mail carrier stopped to chat and said she’d be fine if this were the last snow she ever saw in her life. I piped up, saying, “I’d like to have snow on the ground from December 1 to March 31”—and the conversation abruptly stopped. They stared at me. My undying love for snow is not popular.
A snowfall calms me. It purifies the landscape, covering all the world’s blemishes, all the ugliness, all the winter rot. I love the crisp, cold air. I love crunching through the snow or kicking up the powder. A beautiful snowfall renews me, the way crocuses pushing through the snow might give others hope.
For me, snow does indeed offer solace, something that has been in short supply over the last months.
Reading the article “A Fading Winter Blanket,” I learn how diminishing snowfall is affecting a wide range of animals, from the marten to the polar bear to ruffled grouse to the tiny Karner blue butterfly in upstate New York, which lays its eggs on the stems of wild blue lupine, expecting them to be warmed and protected by persistent snowpack all winter. As the earth has warmed, that hasn’t been the case, so the Karner blue butterfly population is at risk. Polar bears are struggling to find the deep snow needed for birthing dens. Mountain goats in the American West seek increasingly rare patches of snow year-round to prevent them from overheating.
The natural world as we know it depends on snow, for a wide variety of reasons. As our weather becomes more extreme—too much snow in some places, too little elsewhere, glaciers melting, sea levels rising—many species suffer. Some will adapt. Some will disappear. We’ll grieve them when it’s too late.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep longing for the blanketing snows of my childhood, for long days on the sledding hill and soaking wet snow gear draped around the house. For the break in routine that a heavy snow compels—the only excuse you need to revel momentarily in its enchanting beauty.