The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
December 24, 2002
Still Dreaming of a
I'm a desert rat. I've known no other home
than the desert metropolis of Phoenix. Needless to say, I haven't seen
much snow, and I've never experienced a white Christmas.
In fact, I've witnessed snow falling to the
ground from the sky just twice in my 30 years on this planet. The first
time was in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, in November 1989. I was a senior in a
Lutheran high school and participating in a choral fest with several other
school choirs. Our choir spent a weekend in lovely Fon du Lac, and it
snowed our first night there. It was a gentle snow, no wind, quiet and
peaceful. It was enchanting.
The second time I saw snow falling to the
ground from the sky was, oddly enough, in Phoenix. It was the early 1990s,
I forget the exact date. I worked at a movie theater about a mile from
home. All that day, it was freezing cold, and the sky was a solid gray
slate of thick clouds. It started snowing soon after the sun set. I
remember driving home from the theater through the gentle storm,
windshield wipers flicking away tiny snowflakes, in a state of wonder. One
expects snow in Wisconsin, but not the Sonoran Desert.
Those two experiences started my minor
fascination with snow. Nothing is prettier than a pine forest right after
a snow storm, with the ground covered in a blanket of white and pine
needles bowed under the weight of tiny snow drifts. I've often imagined
living in a cabin in the woods, with a roaring fire and icicles hanging
from the eaves.
That's why, for the past several years,
I've hoped and dreamed for a white Christmas, or at least a snowstorm
sometime during the winter.
Hoping for snow in Phoenix isn't as
far-fetched as it seems. The Arizona Republic reported this morning
that it's snowed three times in Phoenix on Christmas Day, in 1911, 1916,
and 1974, when I was two years old. So it's happened in my lifetime - why
couldn't it happen again? There was a good chance just yesterday, in fact.
The whole day was cloudy and cold, with drizzling rain. But just as night
fell, and the temperature inched down into the 30s, the storm cleared. So
My wife doesn't quite understand my
fixation on snow at Christmas. She spent much of her childhood in upper
New York state, and doesn't miss those heavy snows. Neither do her
parents. Arizona is filled with people who moved here to escape heavy
winter snows. I understand all this, and I have no desire to live anywhere
that is covered with ten-foot drifts four to six months of the year. But
living in Phoenix, where fall color on trees happens in the winter, has
created in me a desire to experience some place that has four distinct
seasons, minus the scalding summers. That would include winters with snow
but without blizzards or ice storms.
So maybe Mary and I should move two hours
north to Flagstaff, which has gotten several inches of snow the last few
days. But since Flagstaff is known for its low wages and high standard of
living, that probably is not going to happen any time soon.
So in the meantime, we'll stay in Phoenix,
endure the horrid summers, and continue dreaming for that elusive white
Real Meaning for
Of course, I shouldn't let my dream of a
wintry Christmas distract from the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
Kenny Rogers, my all-time favorite singer, makes an important point in
first Christmas album when he says that Christmas is "not the bells,
and it's not the snow/ And it's not the gifts we get/ But He was born so
long ago/ It's so easy to forget."
Christmas is equated with winter and snow
because it falls in December, which was decided by early Christians a
couple thousand years ago. It's a human construction. I knew a friend who
grew up in South Africa, and Christmas to him meant summer, outdoor
picnics, and swimming in the ocean.
So who cares if Phoenix winters aren't very
wintry, or our Christmases don't match the common culture's? That's really
now what Christmas is about, is it? Those are just sideshows and minor
amusements, really. Ultimately, they don't matter.
So no matter where you are, Merry