The Tragic Optimist

winter walk

Today was the first snowfall of year with any accumulation.  The snow fell in tiny flakes, not the big, gorgeous, fat flakes, these were tiny cold crystals that made the world look just a little greyer.

I had to get to a grocery store over lunch, so I walked to the one nearest to the campus where I work – maybe half a mile away.  On the way back to work, I walked through downtown, and my walk was filled with the noise of traffic driving through dirty slush.

But on the walk to the store (you’ll have to forgive my non-chronologicalness in telling this story), I walked through the quiet residential streets, where no one else was out and about.  It was quiet, but in between the crunch of my steps, I could hear the snow falling through the branches and the last of the leaves that never did fall.  It was almost musical.  Like the sound of rain, but gentler, and crystalline.  Which it turns out, is exactly what snow is.  Still, it’s the first time I remember hearing that sound.


  1. I must’ve heard it before, because I can hear it now, from your description. Lovely.

  2. Beautiful image. I so miss the snowy Midwest, now that we live in Seattle. Thank you for transporting me!

  3. Doug

    I remember that distinct sound….in 1999 or so I remember walking with Anya on one of those first snowy nights in the quiet back streets by the Lake of the Isles only hearing a distinctly crystalline tinkle. There is a soft quiet similar to what you get with the more perfect larger snow flakes. At the same time, there is also a sharpness to the air and the sound and a different crunch under your feet as you walk. Sigh. Snow is distinct–never the same and leaving a lasting impression of a moment in time.

  4. Mom

    Yes I love the noise and remember it changing, but your virtual snowflakes are even better.

  5. I know this exactly. I remember wearing my cloak while out walking one night, probably to the same store down the same residential streets you did. And it was so quiet and the sounds so subtle, I still remember it now. It’s one of my moments I visualize when I’m looking for a bit of internal calm. We get the same weather here, but it’s just not the same living in a more bustling area than it is there.

  6. What a beautiful post. Almost makes the frozen toes and fingers worth it. Not quite, but almost. 🙂

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