Meanderings Let it Snow

Pete Korsching

Winter wonderland: Nature’s atonement for cold weather. We can go skiing, skating, sledding, build a snowman, go on an invigorating walk or just marvel over the beauty of a snow-covered landscape. Little is as exhilarating as the mountains of Colorado on a sunny but crisp winter’s morning, with all that can be seen blanketed in white from the nearby evergreen and aspen trees to the distant mountain peaks. A faint scent of burning pine logs from a nearby stove or fireplace adds to the atmosphere. John Denver had it right: Rocky Mountain high! But we also find stunning winter scenes here in Iowa. I delight in the mornings when the trees are covered with a coating of hoarfrost or thin ice that glistens with a diamond radiance as the ice crystals catch the low angle of the morning sun. I have tried to capture that brilliance on camera, but nature seems to have a way of guarding its secrets. The photos always fall short of the actual show.

The beauty of a winter landscape can also be experienced in subtle ways. For two years we lived across the street from a city park with many trees. One evening in mid-winter, needing a break from studying for an exam, I stepped out to go for a walk. I discovered it was snowing heavily, with two or three inches of snow already on the ground. I walked across the street into the park and was soon beyond the reach of the streetlamps. The snow continued to fall and deepened quickly. The flakes were big, but they were light and with no wind, they drifted straight to the ground.

Deep in the park I stopped to look around. All was covered with a thick mantle of snow that had a white luminescence just sufficient to give shape to the trees, bushes and ground. My footprints quickly disappeared. The thick softness of the snow shielded the site from sounds of what little traffic was about on the nearby streets. I was in a magical fairytale world. I have not had another experience as peaceful and hushed as my walk in the park that night.

Not everyone is so appreciative of winter wonderland. One of my favorite movies, “Doctor Zhivago,” tells a compelling story and features consummate acting combined with magnificent winter scenery. In the story, Dr. Zhivago and his family flee to the country to escape the turmoil of the Russian revolution. One scene with a landscape of snow several feet deep shows their house covered with ice and snow like a beautiful ice castle fit for the Snow Queen. I was in a conversation with a friend about movies and mentioned how much I liked “Doctor Zhivago.” In Tom’s assessment of the movie, all these qualities that made the movie great were ignored and his opinion came down to one simple fact: It made him feel cold. I lost touch with Tom some years ago, but he had a daughter and now perhaps grandchildren. If so, I wonder if he has taken them to see “Frozen?”

Unfortunately, winter wonderland can be as treacherous as it is beautiful. The morning after the recent pre-Thanksgiving snowstorm some friends left early in the morning for the Des Moines airport. Between Ames and Des Moines, they counted about 30 cars in ditches from the previous night. I have been lucky over the years driving in all types of winter weather, with only the minor occasional loss-of-control slipping and sliding. But last winter I had an incident here in town that I would like to forget.

It had snowed for a few days with moderating temperatures so the snow was deep and wet. Driving over to a friend’s house to drop off some materials, I parked in her driveway which was not as yet cleared. I assumed I could back out of the driveway using the tracks I had just made and helped by a moderate downward slope to the street. When I attempted to back out the wheels spun and the car would not move. Assuming the problem was deep snow blocking the wheels, I tried several times to remove the snow, but each time the wheels just dug in deeper. Seeing my dilemma, the neighbor across the street came to help. He pushed on the front of the car and with much effort we managed to move the car into the street. I then attempted to drive forward but the car still did not want to move. Again, I thought it was a combination of the slick street and being at the bottom of a hill. After a couple attempts, spinning my wheels while the good Samaritan was pushing, he walked up to my side of the car, gave me a sober look, and asked, “Do you have the emergency brake on?”

I looked down and sure enough! With extreme difficulty and very sheepishly I managed to look him in the eyes and thanked him for his help. I released the brake, and as I quickly drove off, I could not tell whether he was laughing at me or cursing me.

With the recent weather winter still seems distant, but we know it can change very quickly. So take care if the weather turns bad and you are on the road this holiday season.

(Pete Korsching is a Nevada resident and a freelance columnist for the Nevada Journal)