On the Saturday morning of the big snowstorm, I was part of a special moment that I also want to share with you. Before the storm really ramped up, I happened to gaze out my second-story window to a couple of cars with only a few inches of snow of them. The wind had not yet started and it was a pretty placid scene overall.
Then a raven swooped down to land on top of a small hatchback across the street. The bird hopped about a bit, leaving its spiky footprints in the snow. I was amused in the sort of “ew-a-bird-probably-just-pooped-on-the-top-of-that-car” kind of way when the moment turned magical.
The raven leaned forward and tucked its head down, pushing through the snowfall just as a dog would snuffle through the snow with its nose. The raven flopped on its back, waggling and flapping its wings for all the world like a snow angel against the top of the car, sliding around and jumping back up.
Fascinated, I watched as a bird I don’t usually like – raucous, intrusive, and intimidatilngly big – played, yes, played in the snow on top of that car … hopping, rolling and diving in the white stuff. From where I sat, there was no purpose but pure enjoyment.
Just then, another raven flew by and my buddy lifted off to follow, leaving me to reflect on the wonder of what I had just observed.
The feature story of the December 1994 issue of National Geographic magazine was “Animals at Play.” On the cover is a photo of a young Japanese macaque, a small forest-dwelling monkey, carrying a snowball it made, and the photographer said he also saw two young macaques rolling a snowball together.
A mountain goat from Glacier National Park was photographed in jumps and twists that are “the most common and widespread acts of play.” According to the article, antelope and horses also make such spectacular leaps, as do dolphins and whales. I was surprised to learn that desert mice leap by moonlight, and that hippos do underwater backflips!
In addition to such solitary play, observers noted other social play that includes chasing and tussling games among siblings from zebras to bears to baby elephants. Often, both juvenile and adult animals join in.
As I watched the snow play unfolding before me that Saturday morning, I remembered one particular segment of that National Geographic story: a raven bathing in snow on a Welsh hillside that rolled onto its back and slid downhill for about 10 feet … not just once, but several times, hopping up and walking back to the starting point. What purpose other than pure enjoyment?
On the other hand, my own reaction to the storm that weekend was pretty much fretting about the eventual amount of snowfall and relief that I wouldn’t have to shovel because I wasn’t going anywhere. Plus, there was no one around to romp with, anyway.
Thinking back now, though, to my friend frolicking solo on the top of that car, I realize that play – just for the sake of play – is a much better way to weather a storm.
Andrea Doray is a writer who notes that all traces of that magical moment disappeared with the continued snowfall. You can contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.