When the Snow Melts

Let’s get this straight first: I sing. I’m a classically trained tenor who loves singing in choirs, the harder the better (up to about the middle Romantic era), and solos when I get the chance. I enjoy opera music, and when I listen to the great choral works of the ages, I melt. Ask my wife.

Music lubricates my work, and sometimes informs it. I consider my monthly Spotify subscription a necessary business expense, as it improves my creativity and execution. But I can’t work when people are singing, which is most of the stuff you find on Spotify nowadays. I can’t work with that caterwauling.

I discovered the magic of instrumental music in the early 80s with Mannheim Steamroller. In the 90s it became slightly less oddball with the emergence of Windham Hill and Narada Records. Later on, KINK FM in Portland produced the wonderful program Lights Out, which contains some of the best non-caterwauling music I’ve heard.

I’ve been thinking today of a beautiful simple little song called “When the Snow Melts” from the Windham Hill Sampler of 1996. Today I drove past fields spangled with snow patches from which is born the dead crushed ground, and I thought of When the Snow Melts. It’s the kind of song that escapes your notice the first few times it’s played, but it has a way of burrowing into your heart.

Looking from the house toward the garden, about 30 minutes ago.

Up on our mountainside we still have about 20 inches of snow on the level, and I”m glad about that. We’ve had significant forest fires the past few years, including living in Stage 1 Evacuation notice for about six weeks in the summer of 2015, and smoke last summer so thick you couldn’t see to the end of the driveway. This after a decent winter, but it melted too fast and a tinder-dry summer followed.

Snow should melt slowly. It retreats reluctantly, revealing the ground gradually, like a realization, like remembrance. It melts first around the trees, where even deep snow leaves wells. It retreats off of rocks, especially where they’re steep, where the snow’s hold was always tenuous even in the heaviest storms. Before long you notice the south-facing slopes are bare, looking shell-shocked with last year’s grass smashed flat and the bushes and trees still resolutely bare.

It’s still deep up here. We get much longer days now, and welcome beams of light into the rooms facing south, including my studio. But our home faces northeast and our mountainside is heavily treed, both of which contribute to the duration of the snowmelt. That’s just fine with us. We like the cool weather, and we’d rather postpone the mud of spring thaw. Our little garden is flourishing in the studio windowsill, and soon enough even the garden will be bare and the earth warm and our greenhouse waiting to receive them.

But we like to have the snow melt first in the valleys, to enjoy the woodpeckers rattling around and calling, and even a few robins in town. Summer, with all its heat and labor, will be here soon enough. In mid-March, it’s still fine to wait for the snow to melt.

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