It’s the first day of winter, or the winter solstice, and I thought it would be appropriate to write about the first time I saw snow, since it was when I was in the army. I was 25 years old.
I grew up in Los Angeles. It’s blistering hot during the summer, and winters are milder and dry. Or to say, it was quite shocking one year when it actually got cold enough to freeze the water in the pipes. It just never gets the traditional temperatures associated with winter, and snow is maybe once every 25 years or so.
My first duty assignment after going active duty was at Fort Lewis, Washington (now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord). Fort Lewis is located in the Tacoma area, near the Puget Sound. At the time, I was less than a year in the army and had one of the details every private gets: Guard duty.
Then, we were pulling the guard duty on the gates, and I was assigned to one way out in the middle of nowhere. The sergeant of the guard dropped us off in a Deuce and half, then rumbled away on the road, the red rear lights eventually fading from view. The guard gate was so far in the boonies that I wondered why anyone was going off post in that direction. There was nothing out there but trees.
These trees were the glorious conifers that lumber state Washington is known for– pines that grew tall and taller, reaching high above the other trees. From my vantage point at the bottom, they looked like giant telephone poles all lined up. The browns were deep and rustic, and the greens of Christmas. They were silent sentries watching over us.
It was just me and another private. Stand out on the road by a brown shack with a tiny space heater spitting out bits of warmth and try not to be too cold while we waited for our two hours to end.
Then the snow started to fall, all white and pristine. It was as if it quieted the world around us as it fell, white against the dark colors of winter. It was a moment of serenity from nature.