Watching Snowfall through Windows

Sitting inside. I am warm, though maybe I feel chilly drafts from time to time.

My focus is outside. Lit by a streetlight, or perhaps a backyard light, I see the steady stream of snow flowing down. Repeating itself, same process through the same space, new particles move quickly through my view, but the same flow.

The pattern is broken up from time to time by gusts of wind. Bending the pattern. Nudging the streams in a different direction, then they bounce back. Sometimes holding up the flakes for a moment, paused in space, before new direction is determined.

Or I front a chair just next to a window, perhaps on a day I have off from teaching because there’s a blizzard. Backdrop of the scene outside is white. Harder to pick out snowflakes in daylight, but I turn to look at places where they fall against a dark backdrop, usually a tree. Put some music on headphones, something with energy that matches the blizzard’s in my head.

As might not surprise a reader of this blog, I regularly put in time watching snowfall through windows. I want to reflect here a little bit about that combination, and share some snapshots of what I experience while doing so.

The combination part is striking. Many Americans today have the ability to experience winter, and focus more on the beauty and less on the challenges, which few people have had throughout history. We can be warm and look at a landscape shaped by cold. We can see snow sit on nearby items like trees, and flow over yards, while we wear normal indoor clothing, and no chill stings our face. We have access to windows that are clear and also keep the cold out, so we can view winter from inside in a way that was not accessible to most in the past.

So again I remind readers that we have options to enjoy ourselves during winter, if we choose to – to appreciate what it has to offer. I go out into the snow, into the blizzards, because I love it! But also, particularly when the snow keeps going on for hours, I take the time to sit and watch.
And when the snow ends, I still like to sit and look outside at times.

Calm. Not a lot moving out there. This helps me find some peace.
I like to look out at a park when I can, at areas with sweeps of lawn where I can enjoy seeing the snow spread out. Bright, with sun reflecting on it. That cheers me.

Ideally, I find trees to look at, during snowfall or soon after while the snow still stick there. A source of delight for me. Trees can be so coated, so frosted, so transformed. The trees are there, year-round, but what they wear changes. We can watch them as shadows at night, amidst the glow of snowy ground, even when the snow has fallen off of them.

At night, lights in a park, and coming from houses across park, provide spots of white light. I don’t need to have those kinds of lights near me, but I will try to appreciate them as well.

What have I seen through different windows?

I’ve sat and looked out the patio door windows at the backyard in the home I grew up in. Those rarely used backyard lights got good use on some of those occasions. Through those big windows, I could see the both the snow-covered ground just outside and flakes in flight.

In rooms at college, I could try to look out to see underneath somewhat nearby streetlights. My little nook to see the fall outside. And of course, being me, to remember the fun I’d had moving through it – and to be tempted to go out again.

Streetlights and parking lot lights make a night snowfall a lot more visible. It can be nice to sit and sense the white out there, but the snowfall itself needs light for me to see it. Snowfall can be seen in city at night in a way can’t be seen in suburbs or rural, more often.

Going out to coffeeshops, sitting next to a window to see the snow in lights. I enjoyed the banks of windows at the front of the business. Snow coming down outside, sky shaken up and with spotlights to highlight spots.

For those not as willing as I am to brave the cold, not as stirred by the cold breezes… here’s something for you, too. We can look out our own windows. We can see the beauty right outside. We can use our technology, the bright lights – often blocking our view of the wonders in the sky (the stars), but in this case helping us see them. We can take the time to watch on these big screens.


About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at
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