The Privileges and Perils of Snowdays

Pearl wanted to spend the snow day playing over at his dad’s community, and since it was early in the storm, I agreed to bring him over there this morning (knowing that he may end up staying the night). We drove through campus at about 10 miles per hour — counting cars along the way (fewer than a dozen over three miles).

We talked about who gets the day off and who doesn’t, what work places are closed and which aren’t, whether businesses and companies necessarily put their employees’ safety first, and the fact that for people who are paid by the hour — as opposed to receiving a salary — a day like this can mean simply no money coming in.

The weather itself takes me back to my early childhood in Buffalo, New York; this is how I remember winter: swirling, grey, gusty, white, deep, powder, trudge, snowpants, sledding, fun. And I’m happy for all the happy kiddos who get to enjoy that today.

I’m also aware that for many folks, with or without children, extreme weather can be hugely stressful and sometimes dangerous.

I just read a Facebook status that someone’s husband had no choice but to drive to work — from a rural area, no less — lest he lose his temp job.

Another local friend shared a photo in which he seemed to be wearing every item of clothing he owned, as his building was without heat.

Frozen pipes, power outages, elderly folks who live alone, homeless shelters at capacity… I sit here in my apartment watching the chaotic conditions outside the windows, at once thankful for warmth, physical safety, and sustenance and also acutely aware that the growing intensity of storms in every season means loss, instability, and dangerous conditions locally and globally alike.

Sometimes I do wonder what the point is of reflecting on this stuff if I’m not actively offering solutions. It’s one reason I’ve stopped sharing as many news stories; you all know where and how to find them, and my clicking “share” willy-nilly isn’t going to change a thing when it comes to the latest tweet or injustice.

But who am I if I don’t reflect, if I don’t try to make sure my own kids are aware of the greater impact and implications of something as seemingly simple and even fun as a snow day?

And so it comes down to what I perceive as a moral responsibility for anyone living in relative comfort, with the privilege of employment that can withstand the weather and a warm place in which to ride out the storm: To stay awake to the inequities among us, to stay compassionate towards those more vulnerable to the elements, and to identify even small measures we can and must take to support and see each other through.

Inner + Outer Landspace

magnoliaI woke up today with a stabbing sore throat. Then I looked out the window and saw that it was snowing. Hard. I worked in bed for a few hours before attempting to rest a bit, then trudged into town to pick up a few things we needed from CVS pharmacy.

I stopped to look at the forsythia, the barely blooming magnolias, and the bowed heads of the daffodils. I felt sad. The roads looked a mess and the sidewalks weren’t cleared.

To say this past winter was mild would be an understatement. To think a few days ago, I had no sign of coming down with something and was running outside in a t-shirt is just jarring.

If I feel disoriented, I can only imagine how the birds must feel; they were having a party at the feeder on the side porch when I got home about an hour later, not even budging as I snapped their picture like the paparazzi.

My throat is still raw, but it has already broken into what feels like a bad head cold. I ate two huge cloves of raw garlic earlier, chopped up with honey. I tried resting a bit more and when I got up, Mani said I looked like a Nyquil commercial — and smelled like a vampire movie. The kids will be home soon; their dad’s going out of town and they’ll be here for the next two weeks. During that time, Pearlie will turn 10, and hopefully spring will return so she can ride the new bike to school — a birthday present from her three grandparents.

I have head fog. It’s arguably not the best time to write anything. And this isn’t the first thing I’ve written today. It is, however, the first time all day I’ve put words down that had no purpose, no prompt. They may not be very interesting to read, but meeting myself here is one of the things that keeps me here. Or maybe I should say, Here. In the existential sense. With a capital H.

Today, I had a thought. We roughly assume the seasons will go round and round. Yes, we are experiencing climate change on local levels in undeniable ways, but I don’t think on a really visceral level we necessarily believe it — the weather, the seasons, the climate — could really get to where we don’t even recognize it. Sure, climate change is terrifying but we still think in terms of summer, fall, winter, and spring — at least I do, the rhythm of New England seeped into me over the years despite how much I love other landscapes and places.

But what if it isn’t so? What if this winter-in-April was the new “normal” and stayed for months, followed by a few sultry days and some violent thunderstorms and who-knows-what-else? I’m talking haywire, people.┬áBut the “what if” doesn’t really matter. I don’t mean that in a cynical or fatalistic way; more in a que sera, sera kind of way.

It’s weird how a cold can rip through you like weather, changing the inner landspace, turning words like “landscape” into “landspace” because you’re too out of it to really notice till after the fact. And meanwhile, the outer landspace/landscape is transformed after a day of snowfall from the glories of early spring to full-blown winter.

In moments like these, I remind myself that I will be well again, and spring will come again, and nothing lasts forever. Not a cold, not the weather. Except love, maybe, and that’s too trippy for me to get my Nyquil-garlic head around tonight.