We climbed out from Cleveland, rising above snowy muted fields and west-edge suburbs, bound for San Francisco. As the ascent continued, the plane striving beyond personal electronics altitude, the whiteness below thinned out, fading to the dull brown of winter. By the time we passed out of the cloud cover streaming off the lake, the snow had disappeared completely.
From the middle of Ohio to the middle of Indiana, there was no snow to be seen. It was then that we started to see curved and blurry regions of snow, a light smear of frosting spread southeast from the shores of Lake Michigan. Just beyond Chicago, the ground began to turn pale again, shading back from brown to white. By the time we reached Iowa, winter had taken over; floes of ice were visible in rivers and lakes.
Viewed from five miles aloft, the only thing that saved the landscape from taking on an Arctic primality was the roads, houses, and sketches of field boundaries. Even at that, I was reminded of flying above Greenland. There was a faint feeling of another Ice Age, of a chill not entirely attributable to the air handling in the plane’s cabin nor the thin air screaming just beyond the plastic window.
The snow did not release its grip on the land until we reached Nevada.
In San Francisco, the locals complained insistently about the cold.