What a difference a snowfall makes.
Actually, it’s our third of the winter. I’m from upstate New York so we don’t count flurries or dustings or even light coatings. If it doesn’t stay on the ground and can’t be measured in inches, sometimes feet, it doesn’t count.
So with a good six+ inches of unspoiled snow and branches covered in ice, we’ve found ourselves inhabiting a veritable rural winter wonderland.
Other than the occasional shouts from neighborhood children sledding down steep driveways or the beast of a hill connecting the upper road to ours below, it is silent.
Yet as I gaze into the frozen woodland, aural memories echo in my mind:
The clang of a tram moving slower than usual as it navigates the icy tracks, the occasional bundled up passenger wiping condensation from their inside window.
The singsong lilt of conversation among buurvrouwen on their way to pick up their kinderen from the local elementary school.
The scrape-scrape-scraping of our next-door-neighbor’s son shoveling snow and ice from the sidewalk and tiny courtyard in front of our rijtjeshuis.
The laughter of Catarina – oh, my beloved Catarina – huddled with her friends in the front entryway of our local Albert Heijn grocery store for warmth, calling out to exiting shoppers to share the giveaway toy of the month.
As in North Carolina, snow in the Netherlands – or I should say, sneeuw in Nederland – doesn’t happen all that often, so when it does, everyone tends to embrace it with childlike delight.
Of course snowfall there immediately turns the conversation to the likelihood of the canals freezing enough to allow skating. It’s a rarer possibility than you might imagine despite the prowess of Dutch skaters in the Winter Olympics currently underway in Sochi.
As I take advantage of the unscheduled retreat Mother Nature has visited upon us – after all, schools, businesses and many roads remain closed – I am transported back in time and place.
I remember making hearty soups, stews and casseroles to ward off the winter chill.
I reminisce about hours spent tromping through snow-laden paths in adjacent parkland with our dog.
I think back to steaming verse munt thee with gember koekjes (fresh mint tea with ginger cookies) in the company of friends.
I recall winter scenes across the depth and breadth of the Dutch landscape… windmills covered in snow, the sail-covered arms dripping in icicles… glowing candles in gezellig homes… darkness descending in mid-afternoon… the clarity of celestial diamonds in the inky, frigid sky.
So many memories triggered by snow. I walk the earth in this country, while my doppelganger – frozen in time – continues to tread on Dutch soil.
My body may be present in the here and now, but my mind is firmly tied to the there and then.