If my memory serves me right, it was when I was in the second grade that I first saw snow crystals.
One winter afternoon, as I stayed at home, I noticed that it had started snowing outside.
Overjoyed, I quickly stepped out onto the balcony.
I stretched out an arm through the balcony fence in hope of catching the falling snow. Each flake that fell on the sleeve of my sweater was a beautifully shaped snow crystal.
Snow crystals were supposed to be unreal. These fantastic objects that I had believed only existed in books were endlessly falling onto my sleeve.
I was excited.
Each snow crystal was a slightly different-shaped hexagon.
Each had a slight thickness, which also surprised me.
The purity of their whiteness pierced my eyes.
Such a revelation should have urged me to call my brother or mother immediately, but I remember admiring the snow crystals alone. I wonder if I was the only one at home.
Or perhaps, I was so excited and absorbed in my discovery that I forgot to act as I usually would.
Snow is not something you often see in Yokohama, where I lived at the time.
It depends on the year, but it would usually snow two or three times a year at most.
Even then, no more than a few centimeters of snow is expected, and ten centimeters would cause traffic paralysis.
As snow is not common, a snowfall would always make the headlines.
In such a rare event, I had managed to capture snow crystals.
I still remember the sight of the snow crystals I witnessed that day, vividly.
The next morning, everything was covered in white outside.
It was quite a snowfall for Yokohama.
In some places, the snow had accumulated to the height of my hips.
I thought that I would be surrounded with piles of crystals, but I was disappointed.
Nonetheless, the snow was of a beautiful white color.
When I put my face close to the snow, I sensed the smell of water, of ice, … of snow.
I couldn’t help but fetch some snow with my glove-covered hands and put it into my mouth. I was in second grade.
I had hoped for a pure, transparent taste, like that of shaved ice, from the white snow.
But, such a sweet taste could not be expected from city snow.
There was not taste. I could only detect the smell of dust. I immediately spit it out.
I felt a bit betrayed.
Nearly half a century has passed since then.
I still get excited when it snows.
But, snow crystals are harder to come by now.
Of course, I do not try to taste the snow.
Illustrated and written by Emiko Hirano
Illustrator and essayist. Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1961 and raised in Yokohama. Has published many illustrations and essays on mountain hiking, travels and lifestyles.
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