Decorated and adorned — the mundane made profound — neighborhood houses become gingerbread with thick, clean frosting on the roofs. No longer differentiable between old or new, run-down or well-kept, each dwelling takes on an air of elegance. Icicles hang from awnings like stalactites. An enchanted child appears behind my eyes. 

We make tall footprints on what we think is the path. Away from the homes, a reservoir sits still and frosted. Creeks shimmer, cutting through the meadow, frozen in place, lightly dusted; large rocks and boulders, capped white, create bright mounds in the dark river. Cottonwoods, having lost their leaves, look dead beside the Pines, which pop their green heads out of the snow.  

In town, we pass the ice rink. Cafe lights and ballroom waltz music from the early 1900s creates a sense of nostalgia for a time we never knew.

We drive off-road. Tree branches droop with heavy snow and drop the weight in puffs that cascade to the blanketed ground. We stop on a ridge and step out of my cousin’s Jeep. The landscape surrounds us in sacred silence created by the deep snow, sparkling as if rhinestones fell in the storm.

“Almost takes my breath,” I’m entranced by the mountains and valleys before us.

“I saw the best snowflake the other day,” Derek tells me in his ski bum drawl. “I was standing on my front porch and it was one of those big fluffy ones. I watched it float down and land on the railing. It was so perfectly geometrical and intricate and it just stayed there. I wanted to pick it up and show my roommates, but obviously that’s not gonna happen.”

“Such an incredible paradox, isn’t it? One snowflake is so fragile, yet put together –” I reach to the landscape.

“There’s been a bunch of avalanches this season. Kinda crazy. Just last year we were complaining about another snowless winter.”

“Did you know that people are using ‘snowflake’ as an insult these days?” I ask.

Derek laughs, “what? No. That’s lame.”

“I agree. I found out about it on Twitter. Apparently it’s to insult someone who is fragile and thinks they are unique — a bleeding-heart or triggered person who gets trophies for participating. That’s the context, I suppose. It started with conservatives using it against liberals, but now liberals have embraced the term against conservatives. Reminds me of the Sneetches from Dr. Seuss. Do you remember those creatures with stars on their bellies?”

“Yeah, totally. You just can’t insult someone by calling them a snowflake, though. It’s magical. Literally everything is more beautiful in the snow. And if it’s too outta hand, houses get crushed. Even if it does melt, it becomes water and enters the water cycle. It doesn’t go away. Being called a snowflake just isn’t and insult.”

“I don’t get it either. Part of nature as humans is to feel — it’s what gives us our humanity. And for people to mock that side of ourselves, it’ll turn people into unfeeling monsters.”

“Damn. That’s true.”

“Seriously. Having an open, compassionate, sensitive heart requires courage and strength in a world with so much pain and suffering.” 

“And evil.”

“It’s a strange time, Derek.”

“A strange time, indeed.”

We slip into silence, admiring the changing sky. Delicate pink, purple and indigo hues reflect in the white mountainside like a painting. Stillness and peace reside between our voices.