The papers and news channels have completed their stories on the great snow drought of 03; they’ve run studies about our changing climate, how dry barren winters seem to be the new norm.

That’s usually the cue for ten billion bushels of snow to fall. A big white hand over the experts’ mouths. It started in the morning, just grit and spit; then the wind died down and the serious work began. When we woke this morning the world was cold and stark and lovely - familiar, in other words. There’s nothing more annoying than a snowless winter; the wind has nothing to push around, the skies are glum, the lawns naked and abashed. The sun ducks out at five like it’s making an excuse to flee a bad first date. You feel as if you live in some uncompleted painting, some half-finished project whose creator bored of the job and moved on to something else. But that changed today. This is real snow, too - the kind that crunches as though you’re walking on apple slices, the kind that packs well for snowballs and snowmen, the kind that smothers trees and bends the boughs low. It’s a binary world now, black and white. It makes driving more difficult, it requires shoveling, it gets in your boots and and tracks into the house, but damn: it’s beautiful.

We went outside to play in the snow today, and Gnat wanted to go up to her little house in the corner of the yard. Watching her plow through the snow was like watching some exhausted survivor of the Shackleton stagger towards the sea - the drifts came up to her knees, so it made for tough going. Jasper bounded along side, taking time to root out toys buried in the snow, burning hot yellow holes here and there, and exhibiting that inexplicable canine delight in new snow. I got out the sled and pulled Gnat around the house a few times; when we got to the cliff I asked if she wanted to go down the hill with Daddy.


“It’ll be fun! I’ll hold you. We’ll slide all the way down.”

She looked down the hill, which to her small eyes looked like six miles straight down. and said firmly: No.

Next year, perhaps. Some neighbor kids came by later and slid down the hill, which gives me pause; after all, it empties right into the street, and I suppose if anyone gets hit by a car I’ll be sued for not stringing orange webbing between the trees on the boulevard, or nailing a sheaf of waivers for the sledders to sign. I can hear the Blue-Haired Lawyer: were you not aware that the pull of gravity might cause a sledder to accelerate down your hill and into traffic? You are aware of the law of gravity, are you not?

I wasn’t home, and -

Please answer the question. You are aware of the law of gravity, are you not?

Yes. I am.

Your honor, I would like to remind the court of Newton v. the Solipsist Institute, which upheld the idea that the law of gravity applies to all, even if you do not believe those other people exist -

"OBJECTION," my lawyer cries. "The prosecution has not established that my client believes the sledders did not exist; we are prepared to grant that they did, but that they acted without the permission of the defendant."

Then we’d hear expert testimony about how the slope of my hill had an addicting effect on those who tried it once. I might as well just go over to the houses of the kids who slide down my hill and write them a check today.

It’s a work night, so this is short. One last thing - Gnat’s world now revolves around her “leper skin dress,” as she calls it. When she woke this morning she was intent on wearing it to school; when I put her down for her nap I assured her that when she was done slumbering, she could wear her leopard-skin dress to school. “With purse?” With purse. When she woke up from her nap she said, as usual “I had an excellent nap,” but she added “wear leper skin dress t’ school, daddy?” Yes, she could. “With purse?” With purse. She just adores this outfit.
And here it is.
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