563: Dust of Snow

563: Dust of Snow

563: Dust of Snow


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

The first time I saw snowfall, I was 17. I was living in Germany with my then boyfriend in Wixhausen. The first thing I remember was the sound. It sounded like nothing I’d heard before, it sounded like, well, nothing. I opened the window and everything was white. I’d seen snow on the ground in the mountains, but I had never really gone out in it. I never learned to ski or took trips to Lake Tahoe unless it was the summer.

My boyfriend’s little brother, who was 15, woke up too and we bundled up in the warmest clothes we could find in the house and walked around the neighborhood. I still remember that strange feeling of both sinking and skating on the fine powder that was already inches thick on the pavement. The sound of the snow crackling underneath us. Everything was so quiet that just to breathe felt like a disturbance in the new wintery world.

There was also the snowlight of course, everything glowing. Everything beautiful. I’ll never forget that first snow.

Years later, there was an epic snowstorm in Seattle that shut down the city. And years after that, a snowball fight with my closest friends in McCarren park in Brooklyn that ended with beers at Enid’s or The Turkey’s Nest. Having not known snow all growing up, it still feels like something I’m figuring out. The odd elemental fact of it. How does it work? Why does it feel so ominous and soft at the same time?

Of course, I love how snow in the country feels like a landscape made even more dramatic, how it brightens all the edges, but snow in New York City? It’s hard to beat that first snow in New York City. I don’t mean after it’s gone gray and dirty with muck and gross with street sludge, I mean that first white dusting that feels like the city just went to sleep and woke up simultaneously. There was something about that snow that always made me unaccountably joyous. Everything would just stop for a second. The city would get a hush that was so rare it felt otherworldly.

Just recently, my best friend had an old roll of film developed and she sent us photos of the prints. It was a group of us, Trish, Heather, Corey, and me on that day of the snowball fight up and down Bedford and all through McCarren. The photos are hilarious because we look so young, all of us in our early 20’s, in ill-fitting coats, but we are also so truly joyful. Lying face-down in piles of snow, cackling and trying to run from each other. It makes me grateful for not just our friendship that has lasted all these years, but for the snow that made us all stop and play that day.

In today’s poem, by the beloved poet Robert Frost, we see how a little snow can go a long way to altering a mood, to brightening the day.

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.