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Snow brings out the best in city - 'til the morning

January 02, 1998

Snow brings out the best in city - 'til the morning

You got a bad feeling about West Virginia's bowl game early-on, when the lead-in program was the "Andy Griffith Show" - whose "special effects" are listed in the end credits under the notation "Automobile Courtesy of the Ford Motor and Casting Company."

I kept one eye on the game and one eye on the gathering snowstorm and at a half an hour until midnight decided to dedicate my energy exclusively to the pursuit of something pretty. So I went for a walk.

I figure if you're going to hate something in the morning you may as well enjoy it at night, and such it is with snow.

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When it's coming down, snow makes everything prettier and softer, from the already gorgeous holiday-decorated windows of Carol & Co. and The Bookstore Etc., to the less lovely aspects of city street life.

For example, Monday was trash night.

At every house there was a bag or two set out on the curb, but covered with cottony snow, the lumpy plastic could be imagined as sacks of Santa's gifts set out on the rooftop waiting for a trip down the chimbley.

Although the gift recipient would have thought Santa to be of a most sick sense and eclectic humor.

There was a little activity, but not much. Some firefighters guarding a fallen power line and the occasional graveyard-shift workers warming up their cars - extra pleased, no doubt that they get to clean off their cars twice, once on leaving for work and once on returning home.

A woman struggling with her trashbags was assisted by a happily chattering man. No matter that they were of different races, it was an effort of one against the burden of toil in the snow. I would have pitched in and helped myself, but I didn't wish to break the harmonic symbolism.

There was even something serene about the brick replacement project on the Square, flanked by the rows of twinkling, betinseled lampposts and the colored tree, surrounded as it was by white-bedded lumps of construction materials.

After about an hour though, I arrived at my ultimate destination. I could hear it before I saw it really, alive with life and glittering through a small grove of pines along the railroad tracks.

Washington County has many postcards, but the Museum of Fine Arts in City Park, viewed across the lake at Christmas during a snowfall, is its formal portrait. It's the one for the gilded frame that you hang in the sitting room.

The white and colored lights glitter on the waters, which are gently agitated by the trumpet of Canada geese - content enough not to bother shaking the light bed of snow from their backs, yet not enough to keep entirely quiet.

My friend Kate had recently visited the museum and been extolling its beauties. Yet Kate is one to see beauty in many things, including small children with runny noses.

But on a snowy night in particular, it is impossible not to agree. The museum's pillars were lighted delicately through a soft wedding veil of snow. The heavy flakes ticked off the water, evergreen boughs relaxed under the weight of their fresh white burden, pinpoints of light shimmered and I thought to myself, "Hey, I could get a column out of this."

No, that came later.

Slowly I turned to go and reluctantly began dusting off some of the profanity I knew I'd need the next morning when it came time to shovel out the car - the good, vintage stuff I'd salted away over the summer during the warm growing season.

But I turned for one last look, and for that single moment, standing there after midnight on the edge of the jeweled water, on the edge of a new year, I couldn't imagine a better place to be than right there on li'l ole Virginia Avenue in li'l ole Hagerstown.

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