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post #94
bio: stu
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11/3/2005
14:56

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Aussies in the Snow
I grew up in and around snow. You could usually count on there being snow on the ground by Halloween, and it would remain there consistently, getting grittier and darker with dirt and dog urine until around May Day. It trains you to endure discomfort for long periods of time, to expect that even the prettiest things will turn sour and dirty, and that the only thing to do is remain stoic, because this too will pass. After a couple decades of stoicism, you eventually forget that a snowfall is a beautiful thing, something to watch out your back window as the wind whirls eddies through the air, around your trees, and coats everything with a sparkling frosting. A Midwest snowstorm is a marvelous thing when viewed from the comfort of your home--all that vast space filled with little flecks of white, shifting and accumulating in ways that seem impossible but nevertheless happen with a calm inevitability.

Hot chocolate is a must for this experience.

After decades of this, the joy kind of goes out of it--blizzards become simply the thing that will put you to sleep and kill you if you let them. The magic goes out of the relationship; you stop laying out snow angels and settle into just trying to move your car and regain feeling in your toes.

Edinburgh in the winter is chilly and wet. It is rare that they get anything worse than freezing rain--a weather phenomenon that combines the worst attributes of snow with none of positives. The Highlands see snow on a regular basis, but snow in Edinburgh is a rare occurance, and it all too frequently melts within a couple hours--fleeting beauty rather than the faded glory snow becomes in Fargo.

Late one Wednesday night the usual suspects were sitting around the table in our Edinburgh hostel, playing a work-night drinking game, listening to the jukebox, and smoking heavily. A normal night of cameraderie and alcoholism, amongst the Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, and Saffies that made up my universe for six months--cheap beers, vicious drinking being meted out amongst your friends, and no need to get more than a couple hours of sleep before work the next day.

And then the snow started. One thing you forget, growing up swaddled in boots and mittens and fighting snowblowers, is that it doesn't snow everywhere. Most of the Aussies and Kiwis had never seen falling snow before in their lives. They'd been skiing before, but never seen individual flakes falling from the sky. The drinking game broke up immediately, the room cleared, and we ran the 77 steps down to street level without even stopping to grab our coats.

The joy on the faces of these drunks was remarkable--only cliches can really describe it. Like kids on Christmas morning, seeing the pony their parents bought for them. A couple stood in the doorway for a second, tentative about going out into the snow for the first time, "Should we get an umbrella? How heavy is snow? Are we going to get soaked?" My answer was to push past them and into the flurry.

We stayed up all night, faces tilted towards the sky, catching snowflakes on our tongue, scavenging enough to make compact snowballs to throw and stuff down the backs of each others' shirts.

The dawn melted it away; we went off to work, or to bed, droopy-eyed but happy and rosy-cheeked.






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