the first snowfall. No pretty, romanticized, Norman Rockwell conceptualization of it, but instead the much more visceral sense of taste. Possibly some authority figure once told you to avoid the first snow, but that didn't stop you then and doesn't stop you now. Once on the ground it can be: freezing no-taste shifting slowly from solid to liquid upon your tongue; clean and almost metallic, half-melted sky-distiled water that it is, purer than what Coca-Cola puts in clear plastic bottles; gritty flavor of old snow, its whiteness disguising dust particles and traces of exhaust. While still in the air it is: a single flake so light and tiny you can't be sure you even caught it; a heavy cluster that lasts long enough to be pressed against the roof of your mouth before it disappears.

silence. At 2 am it has been night for seven hours and all of the residual heat (and with it the wind) has been leached away into the dark. No animals move in the shadow either, predators gone South for better hunting and prey hibernating for the duration. Cars as well off the road, surfaces too slick to brave the ride home. You can stand i n v i s i b l e under a streetlight and listen to your own breath, your own heartbeat, your own shoes creaking against the snow. There is nothing else.

sledding. Anything flat will do, plastic sheeting, cardboard, even a dumpster-raided mattress one year. Wearing good clothes is right out too, a fact discovered after entirely wearing out the toes of a perfectly good pair of Adidas. Eventually you get to the top of the hill, which looks like a lunar landscape in front of you. Even holding the sled stationary on the ground is hard, let alone getting on it without instantly starting a descent. Once the sled is going you are lightning in the air, you are a proof of relativity, you are in a motorcycle race one but without the motor, without the cycle. Zero to sixty and all the way back in less than thirty seconds.

bitter, bitter cold. Sometimes so cold it just feels numb, senses vaguely reminded that you could never survive this climate without your culture's technology. First, an outer layer of steel and glass molded and shaped together as a car, fully shielding your body from the raw elements. Then a layer of air pumped and warmed from the outside by the anemic built-in heater, blowing loudly and accomplishing little. Finally layers of cloth, some as simple as cotton, others complex as polymers with forty-five letter names. Even with all of this, smiling at a passing friend reminds you of how cold it is, facial muscles moving faster than your half-solidified skin can keep up.

subtle seasonal affect. One of those ideas you swore you would never succumb to, pop psychology bullshit only faintly more credible than astrology. Still, you can't help but notice how there's always more fighting during these dark cold months, more tiredness and tears. "Whatever," helpfully chimes in your cynical side. Oh well, no matter what the case emotionally, at least the sensual beauty of the winter cannot be diminished.

ice. Coating every leaf and dead blade of grass, every dangerous street and sidewalk, the world is briefly turned crystal. Only one memory will last well, longer than any missed hours of work or tragicomical pratfalls onto the hard ground, and it is this: looking up through trees into the solid perfect blue sky, branches form a reticulate halo around the sun, each darkest black and brightest white at once.