Wednesday Moment of Zen: Shelley Jackson’s Snow Story

Snow, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
shelley_jackson_snowSay it again

With all due apologies to Edwin Starr, I think this is how a good two-thirds of the country feels right now. No, really, I do understand the actual geo-meteorological necessity for snow, and why we need cold temperatures and snowpack in the wintertime—really, I do. But what is it they say, familiarity breeds contempt? Not to mention the fact that at this point just looking at those first few flakes makes a spot between my shoulder blades ache like a phantom limb before I ever touch a shovel. The thrill, if ever there was one, is gone.

And yes, of course spring will come eventually. But between now and then we have dirty snowbanks receding to reveal January’s garbage and slush frozen nightly, the world resurfaced every morning like the world’s biggest skating rink. What we need, between now and April, is something—anything—about this winter to love.

Sounds like a job for a poet, doesn’t it? And so it is. Shelley Jackson, a genre-crossing author, poet, and artist known for her hypertext fiction and Skin, a story written in tattoos on 2,095 volunteers, is in the midst of a short story called “Snow,” written in… snow. “Snow” is an Instagram work in progress, published a word or two each day. Readers should load all the images and start from the bottom up, but the piece also lends itself to an aleatory, Cortázar-worthy hopscotching. The necessarily cool palette, and Jackson’s lovely longhand, keep it visually cohesive and gentle on the eyes—there are many ways to take in this story.

But do take the time to read her words in order, as well; the gift here is a momentary shift in consciousness, away from the February mundanity of keeping your feet dry and your body vertical. As the story’s opening words remind us, “To approach snow too closely is to forget what it is.” And what it is—or at least what it can be, if you look at it just right—is beautiful.

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