Hoarfrost

There was a lovely hoarfrost yesterday. Hoarfrost always reminds me of Beth.

Several years ago we attended a retreat together with another friend. As we were headed home on Saturday Beth was driving, Sandy was in the front seat, and I was in the back seat. We were talking about weather phenomena. We had just talked about how pretty an ice store can be, as long as you don’t have to drive in it, when I said, “I think the most beautiful weather phenomenon is hoarfrost.”

Beth said, “What?” Sandy said, “I don’t know who you’ve been hanging out with, but you should stop.” It seems neither of them had heard of hoarfrost. Beth got laughing so hard she had to pull over to the side of the road. She couldn’t see through her tears.

I explained that hoarfrost is a thick, furry frost. Hoar means hair. In the Bible Esau is described as a hoary man. So, hoarfrost is a hairy frost. The conditions have to be just right. You need a thick fog at freezing temperatures. It really turns the world into a magical landscape.

The next day Beth accidently took a poll at church. She asked someone if they’d ever heard of the word hoarfrost. Someone overheard part of what she’d asked and said, “What are you talking about?” This happened again and again until it seemed she’d asked every adult in the church if they knew what it meant. She came to the conclusion that you were most likely to be familiar with the word if you were a farmer over the age of fifty. Being a 30-something city kid, I disagreed with her conclusion.

I think I know where I first became familiar with the word. It’s used in one of the Little House on the Prairie books. Laura remarks that they didn’t have snow for Christmas, but there was a lovely hoarfrost. I re-read the books every year. When I came to that part I called Beth and told her what page and which paragraph I found the word on.

I know people thought that Beth and I did nothing but talk when we were together. Yes, she was as much of a talker as I am. But, it would probably surprise people how much time we spent silently enjoying one another’s presence. Part of the problem is that when someone else was along we’d have to explain ourselves a lot. As you can imagine, people found it strange when we’d look at a beautiful painting of a landscape with a light covering of snow and one of us would say, “Hoarfrost,” and we’d both crack up hysterically.

Sometimes I miss Beth more than I can say.

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