I moved to Tacoma three years ago, and haven’t missed a first snowfall in Wright Park yet. It’s good to start traditions.
Year 1: Walked out during the first flakes of the first snowfall from my first apartment-on-my-own that bordered the Park. It was nearly midnight, and people were speckled all over the park, looking up, wandering through the swifty-drift, not saying much to each other but nodding and passing around this “look what we found!” grin… even the kids allowed out far past their bedtimes were giggling oh-so quietly. It was my first time living on my own, my first winter in my new town, and the trees were so full of hushed starlight and vague, sparkling possibilities. Beautiful.
Year 2: I left work early to beat the ice forming on the hills, and on the way home to my shared, next-door-to-the-scary-neighbors apartment, I went the long way to pass through the Park. It was about 5 pm and I heard the Park before I saw it—the whole place was just full of people! Dogs playing snowball catch! Sleds, inner tubes, and garbage bags going top speed down the hill! The were already wearing patches in the grass beneath the snow. A group of teenagers had turned a picnic table into a 6-man sled that made it all of 10 feet before overturning in a grubby white bank. Everyone was so excited to be out, and racing their sleds against the early winter dark, I couldn’t help but laugh and slide myself down a few of the smallest hills.
Year 3, two days ago: Walking home from work again, to my third place of residence in as many years in Tacoma. I left work late, after my boss and I realized everyone else had been trickling out the doors since noon. Technically, the first snowfall had happened a couple hours earlier, but you wouldn’t know it from the sweet, sugary dusting on the bridge and the playground.
Only two inches, and already you couldn’t tell the pathway from the grass. The only other tracks belonged to a couple and their dog, whose tiny paw tracks hopped and skipped across the boot-size ones in crazy intervals all over the park. I felt the same way—for a pretty strict sign reader and path walker in public parks (Stay off the grass? You bet. You’re the boss!)—the very absence of a path was really exhilarating. That may sound like an overstatement, but I felt almost giddy! I strode and shuffled in wide arcs, kicked up swaths of powder, and circled fast and close around trees whose sometimes fragile undergrowth I usually avoid with stringent care.
I happened on the couple and their dog about halfway between the foot bridge and the far north side—he was a little curly terrier type dog, biscuit colored, and sitting sooo patiently in the snow while I passed. I was this close to challenging him to race me to the pond. Who knows… with a straight shot off the pathway, it might have been close!