Winter’s child, I choose to commemorate my 71st year touching in with snow. Growing up in New England, snow was always my silent birthday guest, and this year record-setting snow has shut down my birth city of Boston. But though I’m a desert rat now, something pulls at me and won’t let me go until I head up to the local mountain 60 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Snow defines its peak throughout the winter months, affirming that Nevada indeed means ‘snow clad.’
To reach snow levels means traveling through several eco-systems, from the desert’s floor of creosote, to the Joshua Trees that are starting to bloom, through juniper and pinion pine, until ponderosas and aspen mark the trailhead. The bristlecone pine level beyond is best left for summer hiking.
Feeling more like we’re in the high country of Colorado than the Mojave Desert where we spend our winters, we head upward, seeking snow. There is precious little for a long while.
We finally do come across some shadowy grey patches of ice that blend in with the grey boulders strewn along the path. Remnants of Cambrian coral and crinoids dot the rocks and remind us of the deep time that’s embracing this moment.
Will our human moment be like the little ball of snow I now hold in hand, then crush and let slip through my fingers?
As we start back down the trail, whole families of humans are hiking towards us. The children lag behind as if stuck fast to the patches of iced snow, not unlike the fossils in the rocks.
Naturally I find myself wondering what we humans are here for: surely it must be for something more than polluting the planet, changing the climate, and disrupting the eco-systems. Clearly the Earth doesn’t need us, and shall go on long after we’ve been the architects of our own extinction.
Out in this pine-refreshed air, I know that the answer is echoing in the voices of today’s snow-struck youngsters.