A couple of weeks ago, an African man who attends our church said that in his language there is no word for snow.
On the other hand, the Inuit and Sammi people of the Far North have many. They have lyrical words to describe all the variations of snow they experience and not because they are poets. Their language has evolved to suit the ideas and needs that are most crucial to their lives. Among many, many others, there are words to describe softly falling snow, salt snow, drifting snow, snow that is good for driving a sled, snow that makes pictures in the air.
I get it. I have a few words of my own for the stuff: sugar snow, soapflake snow, glitter snow, and as I sit here nursing a sore shoulder after clearing another five inches from the driveway and walks—wretched snow.
I shouldn’t complain. I don’t really want to live in a place that has no word for snow and most winters are not like this one. After sweating it out on the driveway yesterday, I enjoyed my stroll through the pure, silken powder on the uncleared walks of my neighbors. I still experience that irresistible childhood delight of being the first to leave a mark on a blank stretch of white like writing on a page. Snow words whispered against my jeans, crunched beneath my boots and murmured muffled warnings of hidden ice. Talking snow. Yes, talking snow seems an appropriate word for it when that is what most of us are on about these past few weeks here in the Near North.