Last Monday, I arrived in Manhattan in what has been called “the snowiest January since the city starting keeping records” — 36 inches to be exact — easily breaking the record of 27.4 inches in 1925.
Struggling with my bulky bags on the icy subway stairs, trapped by what seemed like hundreds of layers of winter clothes, I quickly needed a serious attitude adjustment. I managed to win a seat on the B train down to Bryant Park in midtown. Cursing the weather, the crowds, and my decision to travel to New York in January, I suddenly saw something that completely transformed the experience. On the subway train, amidst the ads for personal injury lawyers and dermatology clinics, I saw a message in the ad space overhead: A short poem by Robert Frost, called “Dust of Snow.”
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
I read it, and cried. Re-read it, and lost it again. I couldn’t believe this poem had found me, and on this particular day. No born-and-raised New Yorker had ever appreciated the transit authority more than I did at that moment. It was such a sweet, powerful reminder that those unexpected moments – just like Frost’s snow dusting – can instantly shift our thought and lift our spirits.
Emerging from the subway exit, I saw what can only be described as a silent white city. The falling snow had completely muted the normally discordant traffic noise, and turned Manhattan into a gloriously quiet, spectacular black and white cityscape.
The barren trees behind the New York Public Library formed delicate lacy patterns against the flat bluish skyscrapers, and the park’s famous fountain had frozen over. (Pics #1 & #2) I grabbed my camera and couldn’t stop shooting. The snow kept coming. It landed weightlessly on my hair and I caught flakes on the tip of my tongue, the way I used to as a little girl growing up on Long Island. The experience was every bit as miraculous all these years later. All of this — all of it — sparked by 34 perfectly chosen words from the mind by Robert Frost, and the largesse of the MTA.
Sadly, I’m told the agency has begun removing those literary ads from the train cars because of state budget cuts. Transit officials have replaced the words of Franz Kafka, Galileo, and other great thinkers with updates about the agency’s new technology, equipment, and infrastructure. Perhaps some will find inspiration in the promise of jobs that those projects could bring. For me though, I will just remain grateful for the warming fire of those two Robert Frost verses on a winter’s day.