Monday, January 17, 2022

Burning our bare hands

Experiencing snowfall for the first time in Utah.

It was mid-March and we had just driven into Hurricane, Utah. Winter was almost over, yet the temperature remained at thirty-nine degrees Fahrenheit—chilly, but not freezing. As we pulled into the Motel 6 parking lot and stepped out of the car, Sev and I started to shiver from the late afternoon air. Right away, Sev headed to the front office to check us in to the room, which was just off the main highway that would eventually lead us to Zion and Bryce, the first national parks I would visit on my first trip to the United States.

I stayed outside, leaning against the car, and gazed at the sky. The clouds were thick and gray, like lumps of ashes. With the long drive from San Diego, through Nevada and a brief stop in Las Vegas, across a corner of Arizona, and then down the Virgin River Gorge, where it had started to rain, I was ecstatic to be in Utah, with its colorful landscape that Sev was fond of describing from his previous hikes. I was ready for our hiking adventures and even more thrilled to stumble onto anything unusual and unforgettable.

Tired and famished from an eight-hour drive, we settled for a while in the motel room and then searched for a restaurant where we could eat dinner. Sev is vegan, and we drove around town in search of a place where he could eat. We ended up at Mekong Kitchen, where Sev had vegan Pad Thai and I, spicy Pad Thai; we also ordered two sets of egg rolls. When we finished eating, darkness had already enveloped the town, and the rain was falling harder. Getting into the car fast, we just decided to go back to the motel since there was not much to see in what seemed to be downtown Hurricane. Once we reached the motel and got inside our room, we quickly fell asleep.

In the morning, I woke up early as we needed to prepare for our DIY tour. Half asleep, I sat by the bedside, listening to the dull hum of the heater. After stretching my arms, I stood up, moved towards the direction of the sliding glass window, and parted the black-and-white curtain panels. I saw something that I had wished for while still a child—snowflakes, gently being blown by a slight breeze and reflected by the lights in the parking lot. I was seeing snow falling for the first time.

I immediately ran towards Sev, who was snoring under a thick blanket, and slapped his shoulder. I shouted, almost hysterically, “uy, gising, umuulan ng niyebe!” I loudly said again in Filipino, “umuulan ng niyebe, dali!” Jolted awake, he got up from the bed and joined me to watch the enchanting show through the window. Sev told me that he had seen snow many times before, but this was only the second time he had actually seen it falling. 

Leaving the room to stand against the upper floor railing and wearing only t-shirts and shorts, we continued to watch the constant shower of snow. Even though the snowflakes melted as they touched the parking lot asphalt, across the street, the roofs of the houses and the front lawns had sheets of snow. On the windshields of the cars below, the snow had accumulated overnight into a thick layer of snow and ice.

Although it was my first snowfall experience, I felt nostalgic. As a child, I would watch movies about wintertime: children constructing snowmen and throwing snowballs at each other, teenagers skiing, athletes snowboarding, and Santa Claus riding in a sled drawn by a flurry-furred reindeer. Growing up in the tropics of Southeast Asia, that was the only way we knew winter. In the Philippines, there are just two seasons: wet and dry. For the most part, it is hot and humid year-round. So I promised myself that someday I would explore a cold country and perform those kinds of activities. 

Realizing that my childhood dream was now reality, I went inside and swiftly donned three layers of clothing, put my hiking shoes on, and rushed down below. To avoid slipping, I slinked along the pavement glazed with thin ice. I closed my eyes, waiting for the snowflakes to gently land on my face. Then I stood up straight, stretched out both my arms, and twirled my body round and round. The feeling of snow was wondrous, pure, and calming. I saw Sev, still standing by the railing, now with his camera, taking a video of me in my reverie.

A moment later, after we had checked out and packed our luggage into the trunk, and unprepared for this winter experience, I felt another sensation as we scraped off from the windshields the snow-turned-to-ice. Burning our bare hands, even after using a scraper borrowed from the couple parked next to us, the snow-ice was frigid cold.

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