This morning I sat on a couch with a view out the window, where it was snowing. At the time I sat down it was snowing hard—big, wet flakes that seemed to change the world. I watched them fall by my window. For a moment each flake was important. Then it fell out of sight, piled into oblivion on the ground below.
I don’t know that I’ve ever watched a snowstorm end, really seen the fine changes that lead from a blizzard to still air. I’d been sitting for less than fifteen minutes when the number of big flakes began to dwindle. It did not take long before I could count the number in my view and for that number to shrink to none. The snow had turned to a fine powder that dyed the air gray.
Out of sight, up in the clouds I take it, something was happening. The snow ebbed some more. Minutes later it was gone completely.
I’d taken my seat this morning determined to pay attention. When I first sat down my concentration felt deep and wide. I had some ideas I wanted to spend some time with—about becoming a father, about growing older. For twenty minutes maybe, while the big flakes fell, I was a strong cistern, filled with feelings, bounded against the world around me. The toys on the floor, the mug of tea at my side, were objects outside me.
Then my concentration started to fray. My thoughts felt less distinct. I picked up a pen and twirled it, I thought about a dream I’d had the night before and how I needed to tell my sister about it. The snow was turning gray. I nearly got up from the couch and walked out of the room to my computer. My mind was whirling now, seizing on a thought and dropping it, doing everything it could to get me moving. There was no reason to believe that anything worthwhile would come of continuing to sit. Except that in some distant place I remembered that not long ago it had been snowing hard, and I’d known a different kind of feeling, and maybe it would come back.
So I leaned back into the couch. Something must have been happening in the clouds above because I began to deepen and widen again. I decided to compose a piece about the snow in my head.
I came up with a first line: This morning I sat on a couch with a view out the window, where it was snowing. I came up with a second. But after the second I doubted the first. Maybe it was time to stand up and go make some toast. But in some distant place I remembered that I’d once felt like I wanted to say something. So I didn’t get up and something happened in the clouds because I thought of a third line: I watched them fall by my window.
A few minutes later I came to the end of the piece. I didn’t feel like a cistern but I did feel like a man. Outside it had started to snow hard again.