I woke up Tuesday morning and my street was covered in snow. The world was bright and blindingly beautiful, so my housemate and I grabbed our coats and boots to go outside. We walked a block to buy milk, eggs and orange juice. Our shoes left fresh prints on the ground.
The next day, remembering that moment, I wanted to write a snow column. I wanted to write about how my street sparkled in a way that was almost otherworldly, so beautiful and bright. I wanted to write about orange juice and the pattern of our footprints on the ground.
My snow column would have quoted Kurt Vonnegut, who describes the feeling I wanted to capture in an essay I’ve written about in this paper already, but will cite again because the phrase sticks: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” The column would have tried to connect that sense of fleeting contentment to something more universal than my mid-morning grocery run. Like being a senior, this pre-post-grad anxiety, the need to feel secure.
What came out was this instead: not exactly a snow column, but a call for more of them.
I edited the opinion section of this newspaper two years ago, which means I’ve encountered more of these 700-word pieces than I care to admit: columns, from my tenure and beyond, about almost every conceivable issue. I have some feel for the rhythm of what appears here.
People submitted all kinds of snow columns two years ago, back when I was at the News building reading them every night. These columns did not all take snow as their subject, but each attempted to sift some larger truth from a topic as mundane as the weather. These were little moments made big: the death of a pet, the fear of eating alone, the sound of the Harkness bells.
These were the columns online readers most often charged as indulgent: too trivial, irrelevant to others, missing the point. I have always disagreed. Consider all those genre paintings from art history class, with boys in hats and women in white aprons, and how they find beauty in domestic scenes of kissing and baking bread. Snow columns, too, make meaning in the everyday. The process of looking inside for them reminds us that we matter.
Now there are fewer snow columns. This feels strange and stodgy to say — I’m two years out, not two decades — but I notice this trend all the same. What happened? Maybe it’s global warming. Maybe we took those online comments to heart.
There’s another matter, too, which is that the world seemed to simmer all December and boil over this past week, if not before. The sky gets dark so early in the wintertime; just these four days have been hard. Right now, stopping to notice the pattern of footprints on the ground seems challenging and frivolous at the same time. But weeks like this are why we need snow columns more than ever, not to indulge or distract us, but to keep us moving on.
Snow columns cannot save us — no column can do that — but there is value in taking the time to reflect. There is worth in letting your experience be heard (if not to write and publish, then just to share out loud). And there is peace, however brief, in finding words for the the way the world looks Tuesday morning, when your street is bright and blindingly beautiful and covered in snow.
Marissa Medansky is a senior in Morse College and a former opinion editor for the News. Contact her at email@example.com.