For the season of snow, a most welcome sight for the eyes is the snow itself.
Ice-bound and snow-covered, the vast landscape is a crystal white with all colors drained away from it, and the undulating plain a romantic purity of icy powder with white mountains meandering their way across it.
I love snow. I love to watch fluffy snowflakes swirling and twirling down gently and silently from the heavens. I love to stand in the fluttering snow and to be dusted white shortly over the hair and beard like an old man. I love to catch pointed snowflakes on the palm and see them melt instantly. I love to gaze upon the village houses that are submerged in a white mantle of snow, with only their smoking chimneys being distinctly visible. Amid snow flurries there are always people who are busily immersed in building a snowman, adding a nose here, putting eyes there, or are loudly enthusiastic in borrowing items from one household to another. Shining through the fringes of snowy icicles hanging off the cave is the festivity of the red couplets pasted on the front door for celebrating the Chinese Spring Festival. The most pleasing sight for the Chinese lunar January is the tiny human figures of different colors moving about in the distant snow. I also appreciate the crunchy protest of the snow beneath the boots, or the sight of little birds that land on the ground in flocks in a hurried forage for food and then flap away in a rush of wings. And the snow tricks, too. One scoops up some snow, shapes it into a ball and slips it into the collar of a playmate. Or one induces a pal to go under a snow-covered tree, and stomps at its trunk, sending snow cascading down onto the victim; while he is enjoying the spectacular scene, he is bombarded with complaints from his adversary and at the same time has to watch out for a counterstroke. Snow is a blessing, expected by farmers for the bountiful harvest it can herald for the coming autumn, by urban people for a moistened air and a reduced spread of diseases, by children for play and games in the snow, and by young people for the pictures they can take of themselves against snow-laden trees.
I used to see much heavier snowfalls when I was small. Snow drifted down, soundless, during the night, and dawn awoke early to reveal a white world outside the window and unexpectedly a snow-blocked front door as well. The snow was glowing white with a bluish tint, and turned trees and their branches all into statues of white crystal. It was a joy snuggling warm under the cozy bed cover and listening to my parents clearing snow in the courtyard, or sometimes helping them scrape snow off the roof of the thatched house with a bamboo pole attached with a flat basket on its top. Snow being so white, how parents wished it were flour that could satisfy hunger, how children wished it were castor sugar that they could taste whenever they wanted to. There were often icicles dangling from the eave and they were a tasteless delicacy for children. Though their teeth got numbed from chewing on these icicles, they did not forget to pretend that they were eating popsicles, ones that were just lacking in a sweet flavor. In the vast stretches of snow, the most frequent sensation was the romantic ambiance. Out in the lumpy snow, followed by a dog, children were trying to stalk hares by way of locating their brownish breathing holes; at any moment a hare could suddenly burst into view from beneath the snow. Immediately the children and the dog limped along in their desperate chase after it, breathing frostily and sweating heatedly. It was a delight if they managed to catch it, and if not, they would never feel frustrated. As the immense snow blanket seemed to be disguising the world in the same uniform, losing the sense of direction was not uncommon, and one had to stop from time to time to look for human trails to follow.
In rural villages, snow days were also happy moments when villagers sat around a fire warming themselves. Bean starches swelled thick over the fire in no time. And beans, frying in an iron vessel over the fire, gave off crackling sounds and an inviting aroma as well. What about adding a salty taste to the beans? Someone mischievously sprinkled some snow into the vessel! Alas, children fell out with each other for that, but they reconciled instantly, watching together the sizzling evaporation of the snowy water in the vessel. Around the fire for warmth only? No. Something eye-opening would enhance the fun. Adults shot the breeze about how much colder it was in the northeast than in the central region for heavier snows and lower temperatures. They said in the northeast pee would come out frozen and remain unbroken even when hitting the ground, which was followed by disbelieving hisses from the listeners. Hearing that fish would jump right out of a river through the hole cut into its frozen surface, someone smacked his mouth hungrily but comforted himself by saying what was the good in eating fish with so many tiny bones in it. And the frozen rivers there, as adults said, could even support a tank driving across, and that sparked a craving in the child listeners for an adventure of skating on a frozen pond.
After the lunar January, snow is a rarity. However, the heavens may shed mercy on snow lovers and shower down in early spring when peach flowers are in brilliant bloom an occasional snow, whirling in the air together with flying peach petals. Thus the wish for snow lingers into March in the heart of people loving snow.
It is another season of snow now. I yearn for the snow in my hometown and the wintry charms of my central north.