In the Land of Snow


Another snow fell on top of another snow. They piled up in Iowa, late November until April. The first blanket was light, soft, and clean until muddied and grayed by the roadside, where snowplows threw grit, sand, and ice in the raw morning. By mid-February, the dirty drifts packed down in rough-hewn walls no shovel could breach.

Nobody planted a seed until after Mother’s Day. In Alabama, my dad planted beans on Good Friday, following the lore of the South’s highlanders. Now I walked in the level lands.

Bleak midwinter. “Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.” It was a foreign carol, even romantic, until I took a turn in a neighbor’s winter garden but found no solace. The moon gate of graying cypress shone silver. Snow and verdigris cooled the bronze firedogs guarding each side. I unlatched the gate, a tiny click in the silence. The arbor and trellis showed their perpendicular bones. A ghostly white-barked birch stood nearby, apart. Large flakes muffled needle-thin bird tracks. Bits of deep green foliage pricked through a smothered hedge. The wind lifted and stormed the copper chimes.

On the deck at home, snow had layered inch by inch on the seats of Nannie’s ice-cream chairs that surrounded a diminutive 1940s iron table. Its fishnet-mesh tabletop had long disappeared. The wind sculpted the forms until they were fat and round—like my grandmother’s bridge partners. I fancied the ladies when rays of moonlight fell on an otherwise darkened stage.

A plump player sat to the far left—the indomitable Thelma with a proud bosom, like a ship’s prow. She dozed until Nannie deeply scolded, “Thelma, play a spade!” The woman started, harrumphed, and carelessly threw down a flimsy card. Nannie huffed. Thelma nodded off.

The rising wind carried their voices into the night. Then all fell still. Peace.


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  1. Karen Lin

    Ha! “Thelma with a proud bosom,” That phrase reminded me of an aunt that I reference in the book I’m polishing up to send to an interested agent. In this snippet from a scene the pov character is telling her sons about one of her aunts:

    Too many Twinkies and advancing years meant my aunts were DDD—definitely done dancing. “You’d have gotten a kick out of my old Aunt Alvina. She used to rub Avon scratch ‘n sniff samples in her cleavage. She was only four and a half feet tall but a real fireball. She cornered me behind the bologna to ask, ‘Angel, Sweetie, what the hell ya doing marrying a slant-eye?’”

    “No way.” Tyler stirred the tumbling noodles.

    “Yes way.” Our kitchen was silent for several breaths. “Ironically, everyone knew that Aunt Alvina’s roommate—the Avon saleslady—was her lover.”

    -From Mu Shu Mac-N-Cheese

  2. Kaye D. Duke

    I live in Alabama now…but grew up in Georgia. My husband grew up on a mountain called Pine Mountain in Blount County, Alabama. He remember when it snowed like this all the time and enjoyed your story immensely. We both did. Thank you, once again. You are precious. Keep ’em coming, Catherine.

  3. badfish

    Very nice, Catherine. It felt like poetry in each line, some beautiful phrases, a wonderful style. And I loved the image at the end of the women playing cards–didn’t expect that, but it made the whole thing say so much more.

  4. tomadaonline

    I love the language. I read half then saw the audio so closed my eyes and let you tell the story. What a great start to my west coast day. It’s cold here, but your story suggests my cold is nowhere near your cold.

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