The snow is finally melting. After the coldest, longest winter in thirty or so years, temperatures are soaring to above zero and the snow is thinning and disappearing. Outside, the colour scheme has very suddenly and drastically expanded, after months of nothing by grey and white, grey and white.

I’ve never seen snow melt before and I feel like I’m witnessing something quietly magical. When it snows in the city here, they sweep it up against the curb and pile it all up, where it hardens into big, ugly mounds that take up half the sidewalk. These collect cigarette butts and city-dust and car exhaust and turn black with it all, the stark of the white showing up the filth that would otherwise meld into the pavement. These are shrinking now, slowly, leaving patches of damp and slicking the gutters. At the roadsides, the street cleaners wait hungrily for the solids left behind.

Snow never melts while you’re watching, of course; instead it thins gradually, so that you look over and there are these little patches of green where there wasn’t yesterday – grass that is still alive after all that. A little soggy and ruffled perhaps, like it has just come inside from a violent rainstorm, but green. Three days under a tent and the same stuff is brown as the Nullarbor, but chuck a foot more more of ice over it for a good couple of months and somehow it emerges alive.

Although the relief of those accustomed to and sick of snowy winters is palpable, I get the feeling I’m not ready for it to go yet. I know grass, I know green and blue together and glorious, I know what the sun feels like. But all that white, that’s the exhilaration of strangeness I’ve been craving. Those grand patches of perfect blankness; the squeak of new snow under thick boots and two pairs of socks; that icing-sugar snow that dusts over all the flaws and blemishes of this city like a botched cake made to look edible; the view out the window interrupted by tiny white dots settling gently from the sky; the way it sparkles in various shades of amber under street lamps like shopping centre displays – no, the way shopping centre displays glitter like snow, because that incredible beauty, the millions and millions of tiny shards of ice catching the light all at once, that’s what party-glitter and sequins have always been trying to emulate this whole time.

I will admit that I really enjoyed walking around outside today with my overcoat open, scarf untied, and gloveless. It was six whole degrees out. I had five layers on underneath that jacket but it was still something, a defiance.

And I saw a man smile out the window on the tram. Nobody smiles on public transport in Prague. You get the feeling that little things like that almost make long winters worth it.

– Zoe Barron


1 Response to “Snowmelt”

  1. 1 Geoff February 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    “that dusts over all the flaws and blemishes of this city like a botched cake made to look edible…”


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