C.W. Gusewell


Witness a winter wonder

The first temptation was to dismiss the great snowfall of this past week as a trial, a nuisance – unwelcome and undeserved.

But then, after the necessary complaining, one could not help noticing the almost magical beauty that came with the inconvenience.

Bending tree branches wore their white burden with the delicacy and grace of bridal veils.

Stillness ruled. The only movement to be seen outside the window was the urgent fluttering of birds at the feeder, for it was by that mercy could they live.

Ground creatures – rabbits, chipmunks, mice and us – stayed huddled in our holes. Or most did. I saw one man trudge up the unplowed and untraveled street, snow halfway to his knees, leaning into the wind as if practicing to be a sled dog.

Buddy the beagle and Cyrus the Brittany demanded out for the usual sanitary errand. But laboring to break trail across the fenced yard, snow to just below their chins, they soon realized their mistake and were back yelping at the door.

And what would we do without snow days?

For workers who received word not to report, as for children paroled briefly from the classroom, it’s a welcome and altogether unexpected vacation. And there are better uses for such days.

Catching up on mail. Telephoning dear friends too long neglected. Sledding and building snow forts.

We were remembering then a friend from years back – a young man who, through the generosity of several people in our city, had come to this country in the hope of a university education.

In his homeland, the region of Casamance in the West African republic of Senegal, snow was a curiosity only read about in books.

He arrived in summer. And nothing in his minimal traveling wardrobe armed him for the frigid season here on the Midwestern prairie’s edge. But winter came, as it has a way of doing.

Friends pitched in: an unused ski jacket, a wool sweater, gloves, earmuffs, even a pair of felt-lined boots with good wear still left in them.

He was a remarkable fellow.

English, learned by a mail-order course, was his fifth language after French, Wolof, Mandinka and Serer. He spoke and wrote it well, and before long – in manner and in dress – he could easily pass as a native Missourian.

The years went by, first in a community college, then with a scholarship and job at a local university. And in early summer of the fourth year he graduated with degrees in management and marketing.

But he’d received a letter with word that his mother was ill, and concern for his aging parents called him home to Senegal.

This past week my wife remembered a wistful comment he made on one of his last days before leaving.

“I hoped,” he told her, “that I could see one more snow.”

And this beauty of a storm that has buried the world outside our windows would have been a memorable one to see.