Through a Windshield, Darkly


Winter is many things in the Midwest and – believe it or not – beautiful is one of them.  Heavy snowfall transforms the landscape.  The land is smoothed down into a vast expanse of glittery white.  Ice collects on the trees, encasing their branches in glass.  The wind blows the powdery snow in long waves across the streets and fields.  It looks like an aurora against the ground.  And the coldest days freeze the clouds out of the sky, leaving the most intense blue imaginable.

The problem is the difficulty required to see this beauty.  The winter snow that covers the ground also covers car windshields.  Ice transforms the world into an astigmatistic blur through windows.  I have a combination ice scraper and snow brush.  That clears things up for a few minutes until I’m in motion.  If the snow is still falling, it tends to freeze against the windshield wipers.  Soon, long wet streaks smear my visibility.  It never fails; the widest line will be right across the window at the level of my eyes.  Even if the snow stops, the windows slowly develop a glaucoma-like sheen of road salt.

Outside the car, things aren’t any easier.  The cold wind makes my eyes water and ice has actually frozen to my lashes in January.  Sun shining off pure white snow is almost blinding.  It’s the scarcity of the clear moments that make them special.  I stop for a bit as I trudge to my car, pause for a moment as I scrape away.  I admire the winter landscape in the instants between the swish of the windshield wipers, take note and commit them to memory, so I can enjoy them – later – in the warmth and comfort of my own home.

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