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Had it with the Valley’s bad weather? Consider the silence of the snow

Snow covers the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Boise’s Julia Davis Park on Thursday, Jan. 5.
Snow covers the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Boise’s Julia Davis Park on Thursday, Jan. 5.

We are a community with a short attention span.

When the snow started in late December, we marveled, we played, we took photos to show our East Coast friends. After a week, with more snow than we’d had since the early 1980s, some of us lost the joyfulness and began to get testy.

We shoveled driveways (again), struggled to walk dogs, and barreled out of our subdivisions. We griped about being colder than Antarctica, about the lack of plowing on side streets, and how schools were closed yet another day.

All this, barely a week into January. Indeed, our attention moved on to dreams of spring and summer.

But through it all, a few people reminded me of the wonder I was missing.

When one person said, “Goodness, people. It’s winter. Get over it, get outside, and be glad we’ll have water next summer,” I tried to think about benefis to this much cold and snow.

I stopped and listened to the silence of the snow.

Apparently, snow silence is acoustically not a big deal, at least not to the scientists who study it. One reason why snow is such a good sound (and heat) insulator is that snowflakes are not dense, and when they fall, they create space among them, absorbing sound.

It’s like foam, which is a reason why sound studios use foam to dampen sound: it creates small spaces or “holes” and sound can’t reverberate as easily as it would against a harder surface.

In a way, the silence happens because of invisible space.

The notion of space generates other thoughts. One friend said she will use the idea of “space” as a focus for her thinking and acting this year: space to breathe, to think, to do nothing, to do what you need to do.

So I’m glad I tried to heed and hear the siIence of our snow, at least for a day or so.

I’ll need silence, and even more, the notion of space, in the coming year.

Now I just need to stop worrying about ice dams and frozen pipes.

Nancy Napier is distinguished professor, Boise State University,