11 February 2013

why snow is essential

The roads were not slick, and for that I was thankful. It was February, and it was snowing—had been snowing all night.

But I had a bridal shower to go to in Wisconsin, just an hour or so away, and I didn't know it at the time, but it was a bridal shower held at a retirement home. St. Catherine's Commons, the invitation said, and I pictured some sort of church fellowship hall when really, it was the dining room at St. Catherine's Assisted Living Center.

I didn't know it as I drove through the snow, but after an hour or so on the road, I would walk into St. Catherine's, right smack into a group of old men wearing sweater vests and cardigans. "Are you here for the shower?" several of them would ask at once. They would be gathered around the fireplace, crosswords and newspapers on their laps.

"Yes, I am. You must know where it is!"

"Oh, we do! It's right in here!" They would be a chorus of helpfulness—and concern about the state of the roads.

"We haven't been out, but the TV said it was bad. Where did you come from? Chicago! How was that? How was the expressway?"

I didn't know that the bridal shower would start with a recitation of road conditions, nor did I know that I would be one of only a few girls under the age of 35. I didn't know that several of the older women would have on sweaters with appliqued winter designs and that I would feel young and chic in my knee-high black boots.

I didn't know that that would be my afternoon; as I drove, I was more focused on the snow that was more of a flurry: a gray flurry, the kind of snow that people who say they love winter block from their memory every year. It is not the pretty snow.

Now, the snow that fell overnight: now, that was pretty, the kind of snow that would be in a movie. Big flakes, falling on a hushed town, white and clean and transforming even the most mundane objects—the telephone poles, say—into something poetic.

You see a telephone pole in a soft snow, and you will think: That is a beacon of communication, bringing comfort and familiarity into every home.

I had been one of the first people to walk in the snow that fell overnight, a benefit of owning a dog and of naturally being an early riser. It was just a couple of inches, but that is enough to cover the gray chunks, the icy blocks of salt and dirt that the snow from last week had become.

It is always a sad shock to me that what began so beautifully—snow from on high—so quickly becomes a dirty version of itself as our cars and snow plows, those modern conveniences, deal with the weather.

I sound like a Luddite yearning for less technology interfering with the simple ways of the world, but of course I'm thankful for my furnace and electricity keeping my apartment warm and light during dark winter nights.

Snow can make us feel torn: It creates this old-fashioned-looking world, and waking up to a couple of inches sets off this deep longing in some of us for a slower pace. Coffee by the fire, reading in the armchair, a stew on the stove.

Then we want to run to Target, though, and we expect that the roads should've been plowed, the snow should've been taken care of, and life should be ready to keep moving forward.

This is why snow is, for me as a Midwesterner, essential: it reminds us that we really don't know what to expect in a day. We could wake up to several inches, but by the time we go to bed again, it could've melted, seeping into the ground and making a mushy mess.

Or by the time we go to bed again, more snow could be falling.

Or there could be ice.

Or the winds could be gusting and threatening to whip off our scarves.

Or we could've spent a couple of hours driving through a gray snow that was made to be slush, all to spend a couple more hours at a retirement home for a bridal shower.

Snow reminds me that there is so much more to the day than I can see when my alarm first goes off and that, that is why I will always live in a place with snow.


  1. Well played!

    I saw a new post from you in my feed, and thought, “ah, cool, Kamiah has a new post up.” So I came here and started reading.

    I couldn’t tell whether you were performing a literary extraction as an exercise or recalling actual events at first. I convinced myself that the retirement home events existed. Then you switched to the present and the tone switched to commentary on both the idyllic and ugly snow. The Little Pug reference made clear that the retirement home was fictionalized; I had interpreted it wrong. I was certain I was wrong.

    Then came the last two paragraphs and you’ve left my head spinning. Combined, they made me waffle on the is-it-live-or-is-it-Memorex question. I want to know, but also want to stay blissfully ignorant. You have definitely messed with my mind today.

    1. This post really should've been called: fun with tenses.

      Should I put you out of your misery? :)

    2. Oh, no no no, it's not misery :) (yet). I read it through two more times and finally came to my conclusion. I won't reveal it though, I don't want to influence your other readers.



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