IMPRESSIONS OF THE SNOW are as shifting as the snow drifts themselves. But for a moment - amid the accounts of all the many battles fought by means of shovelers, plowers, sanders, haulers - an opportunity existed to delight in the beauty of the glistening blanket. This snow of seven to eight inches may also be as close as Washington will come this winter to the record 189 inches that fell in a six-day epic in northern California in February 1969. As for a total accumulation of a full winter, we are anywhere but in the Snow Belt: According to Ruth Kirk in "Snow," the record belongs to Paradise, Wash., and the 1,027 inches that fell on that town in 1970-71.

Records in the books are one reality, but the snow in our neighborhoods created another. We read of a 9-year-old who had his third-grade lessons supplemented by learning experience likely to be remembered as long as his multiplication tables. For shoveling the 25-foot walkway leading from one house, he earned 25 cents. For clearing another walkway - of only 15 feet - he was given $3. This introduction into the vagaries of capitalism was as confusing as the causes of the snowstorm. But when he arrived at the third house, he had learned enough about economics, as well as adults, to call for a fixed rate.

In some neighborhoods, where the walkways are too long to shovel, these days of white hue are more to be absorbed than attacked. Snow is seen less as an interruption of life than as a means of bringing on a few moments of a different life: slower, more settled, less fragmented. A deep snow can bring on what Robert Frost described in "Dust of Snow":

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.