Since it seems like EVERYONE is about to be walloped, I thought I would pull out this essay I wrote eons ago.
The first thing that you realize as consciousness overtakes your dream state is an odd quality to the light that hits your closed eyelids. It isn’t that squinty red feeling you get when toasting yourself on a beach, but a soothing whiteness. Your alarm clock hasn’t gone off yet, so you feel obligated to just lie there, trying to interpret the feeling. You realize that there is no sound in your world. You don’t hear the cars and doors and dogs and birds and all the other white noises that tend to occupy space and time.
The sounds you never notice until they leave a void. You feel particularly comfortable, not as if you would dread getting up, but you don’t have the same desire to stay abed as you do when you are rudely awakened by the alarm mere hours after retiring. In other words, you feel peaceful, and well rested. Then knowledge of what is happening reaches you, in the deeply echoing sound of metal hitting pavement on an oblique angle as it scrapes a path in the…snow!
A snow day!!
Only snow can, of all weather, elicit such emotions in people. Those who complain are probably grinches, and despite their grumbling, probably lie in bed like you and I thinking of the snowmen or great snowball fights of their youth. Snow is inherently different from other forms of weather. The sun goes away, every day, no matter how sunny. Rain, once it stops, exists nowhere but in puddles. The wind, unless gentle, is feared and people prepare to fight mightily to protect their lives and belongings when they hear it will be visiting. Snow is physical in a way that no other weather can be.
Snow is sculptural, and it is sculpted. Snow can be picked up and moved. It can be molded into different shapes, and it can be thrown. Snow wants to be touched. Sometimes it is soft, and fluffy, and tickles cheeks and eyelashes. Sometimes it can be dense and so strong that it can be walked on. It can balance on objects less than an inch wide. It is quiet, too. Snow comes silently. Oh, people fear snow. But mostly at the inconveniences it causes. If it rains you leave a few minutes early to take a route that doesn’t flood. Snow wants you to really think about it. Will I be able to get to the store for milk? It is the kind of weather that brings back those hunting and gathering, hibernating instincts.
How long will it take to move snow from the car, the driveway? And will you be plowed back in? Can you admit to never picking up some of the snow from the car and forming a snowball, even if there is no one to throw it at? It is an exercise in sentiment, because as you move it from one place to another, more convenient spot, you certainly recall a snow day from your childhood. Of the percolating excitement as you dressed to go out to make “snow angels“, to fling yourself into a flat unmarked area of pure white where no foot had yet stepped. The purity of the white, the unerring evenness of the coating, the amazement as you stepped off the porch up to your knees and sank slowly into its softness. Of not having school and having grandma ready with the hot cocoa when you finally came inside, looking very much like the snowman you just finished building. Snow chunks hanging from every fiber of your scarf and hood and mittens, and the sound of swishing snow pants and frozen toes and shiny red cheeks and noses. Of being sent to a radiator to remove layer after layer, a warm dry sweater waiting to take its place.
As a child of the most amazing aspects to snow was its staying power. Snow, if piled correctly, densely enough, high enough, if it rained or melted a bit and then froze again, could provide a mountain to climb until Easter! Even as daffodils and tulips came from the soft spring ground, there would be a game of king of the mountain going on (right where third base would be in spring)
Snow alone causes a kind of community that generally doesn’t exist. People tend to get to know neighbors on snow days. They trade shovels, or dig out one car at a time. People who would barely nod acquaintance at any other time become, if only for the moment, pals. They chat and joke, complain and shrug. We are all in it together. The street where I grew up was private, one that was not plowed by the city. The whole street was shoveled by the residents, one shovelful at a time. Everyone went out to help. One person had a truck and he went up to each house and took grocery orders (we always needed cat food!) and he ventured off our block. If we knew snow was coming, most of the cars were parked on the next street so people could get to work.
What other weather causes people to behave in quite the same way? It is the only weather that stays. It may rain on Tuesday, be sunny on Wednesday. But if it snows on Thursday, you start thinking about sledding trips on Saturday! Truly there is magic in snow! (and to think that each flake is an individual) We usually dream of a White Christmas, but don’t get our snow until far later in the season, when it doesn’t help the ambiance of the holiday, yet, still deep down, we all long for a snow day. On a snow day things don’t have to get accomplished.
You can maroon yourself in your home.
Lie on the couch with tea and a novel or popcorn and a video.
Write a letter, or look through boxes of old photos.
Forget so many of your responsibilities. Put them off until tomorrow.
Reassess priorities. Realize what’s really important.
Put on gloves and scarves and boots and lip balm and go play in the snow with your dogs, your children or your memories.
Trish Casey, 12/1995. first published in the Women’s Forum, a column of the Staten Island Advance.