Fat white flakes of snow began falling outside my window this morning. It’s earlier than usual for snow in Indiana, but not so early as to be shocking. They snowflakes were truly enormous, and just barely cold enough to cohere as something other than sleet.
I watched for awhile, not expecting the snow to accumulate, but two hours later I noticed the ground was white. I was in the middle of one of my favorite photo ops: snow on fall color. Winter is so often a gray and white season, that when it collides with the other, more colorful seasons, the result is striking. I ran outside and photographed the still-red leaves crusted with snow, thankful for my weather-sealed camera body as the big, wet flakes pummeled it.
The only other time I’ve encountered this was in Montana, on one of the worst days of my life. It was October, and I was driving my SUV from Idaho to Indiana, packed full of my things. I was in the midst of a separation I didn’t yet fully understand, and I’d flown back to Idaho to drive my car back to Indiana, where I’d moved. My almost-ex was in China on a business trip, so I didn’t have to see him.
I flew around my old house, rapidly packing the most important things into boxes and bags and stowing them tightly in the car. I grabbed a plastic bag that was hanging off the front door knob, and out fell some tags that had been clipped from a garment.
Women’s lingerie. Suddenly I understood my separation.
I surveyed the tags curiously, as if they were a strange insect I was examining from a safe distance. I felt oddly numb, except my hands started trembling slightly as I turned them over and over in my hands. I put them down and continued packing methodically until I was finished. I locked the door and got into the brand new car I’d barely driven. I drove onto the highway in Coeur d’Alene and headed east, crossing into Montana a short time later. I drove up Lookout Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains, and it began to snow. Suddenly, ahead of me, I saw a stand of aspen and tamaracks glowing gold in the snow.
I felt like hell. There was an animal gnawing through the wall of my stomach.
Still, I swerved onto the shoulder, opened the back door and extracted my camera bag. I couldn’t help it. Nature was stronger than sadness.
And the moment I realized that was so, I had an inkling that I would be all right.
And so I was.