The Beautiful Things in the Snow

Berlin Snow
Campus in the winter.

My first winter in the snow at Bard College.

Two red berries had been smashed beneath each footstep that led up to the window. The juice had bled into the ridges of the prints and small spots dotted the length of each step where the berries had been carried with the forward momentum. Everything else was white, miles were white in every direction – the trees were white, the hills were white, the sky was white – except for the few drips of red that stained the snow. The image was beautiful and violent as we hung out the window for some fresh, chilly air and looked down at the rouged steps of a passerby.

The snow was soft underneath our toes, and soil farther down held warmth to sink our feet in. Small pines only a hands-width grown scratched at the sides of our bare ankles. We gripped the ice with shoes in hand and climbed down the white covered paths until we could see that we were lost in the white and the brown and the green. So we put our feet up on a log, to let them dry, and rubbed them clean with our socks before we set out again. The white turned grey, in the way that it does, when the light begins to dim, as we kept wandering and wandering with feet bare in the snow; until we found a staircase that led up over the fog and a dock that sank straight through it. I stood along the dock pathway, poking the ice around us until I was lifted safely over and slowly, we made our way to the end where the dock floated over the frozen lake.

And the wood had been consumed by the water.

And the ice stretched for miles, with the fog sitting above it.

A field of tall grass stretched purple in the snow.

We looked back to see the woods turn black. “You know, about twenty-or-so years ago there was a man living in these woods. A couple times, Bard kids would come out into the woods and just never come back. They always found their bodies but they could never find the man and apparently he still lives here, just hiking through the trees all night long.”

“What do we do?”

“Well, the two teenagers are usually killed right after they kiss and realize they’re madly in love.”

“Then we’d better not.”

We walked back across the dock, over the lake of ice, and back into the snowy woods where the staircase led us far up, up past the warm soil where hard paths became solid and slippery. And through the snow we wandered home.

Where cemeteries became peaceful in the snow, and trees grew soft coats in the snow, and smoke was thick as shadows in the snow, and coffee warmed your cheeks in the snow, and people left their own paths in the snow.

 “I hated the snow, I hated the snow for so long and then I realized that there’s no point in hating any weather because it’s just going to happen anyway, whether you like it or not, so you might as well like it. And everything’s prettier in the snow because it all looks so soft. But I love the sun, and I love the rain, and I don’t know, I don’t know what I like best anymore.”

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