Snow covering the swing set. Snow covering the deck furniture. Snow covering the mailbox, with only the door flap peeking out like a little face under a hat. Snow nearly up to the highest rail of the fence.
Some winters, I find myself unintentionally keeping track of the inches of snowfall, like Henry David Thoreau, who wrote that he was “self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms.” A mental inventory builds in my mind: The storm just after Christmas. The storm in the middle of January. The storm on Valentine’s Day.
This year, even I can’t keep track. There was the Saturday storm, and then the one the forecasters promised would break records, and then the one that began during the Super Bowl. But after that, I lost count. I think there was one late last week, and I know it snowed all day this past Monday.
It feels to me as if there’s a message for us in the ceaseless snowfall. With each storm comes another standstill. No school. No work. No driving. As of this most recent one, no public transportation. Maybe the Universe thinks we need urgent instructions in how to stop rushing around.
If so, I’ve taken the message to heart and slowed the pace down in many ways recently. When school is cancelled, I let the kids sleep late. I make an extra pot of coffee and work from home if possible, writing at the kitchen table while watching the snow pile up on the deck; on days that the driving is manageable and I’m expected in the office, I disregard my usual business attire in favor of snow boots and heavy sweaters. I still go running, but not my usual distances; just to the end of the street and back to log a mile or two before finishing my workout indoors on the stationary bike.
Of course, I have the luxury of being able to do this. Every snow day, my thoughts eventually turn to those parents who risk losing their jobs when school is cancelled and they have to scramble for childcare, as well as people without the basic comforts of heat and shelter during a snowstorm. It’s easy to relish the winter weather when you have the option of hiding from it. Even the small amount of shoveling I attend to feels more like a welcome workout than an onerous task.
When I teach personal narrative, I usually have the class write about a memory in which a weather event played a major part in the story. People write about hurricanes, lightning storms, ice storms. I’m not sure this winter’s storms have much of a narrative arc. They’re just there, an ever-present part of the background.
If the lesson was to slow down, I’ve definitely passed with flying colors. I’m going to miss this winter weather once it’s gone and we’re back to a regular schedule of five school days a week, five round-trip commutes into work every week, evening meetings that take place as scheduled rather than yielding to last-minute cancellations.
Winter has put me under a bit of a spell, and I know I need to get back up to speed eventually. But one or two more storms before that happens wouldn’t be all that unwelcome. We can rush around the rest of the year. Midwinter is a chance to cocoon. Or at least that’s what I choose to believe the Universe is telling me.