Snow Day

A no-school snowfall hits Seattle.

A no-school snowfall hits Seattle.

I woke up this morning to find Seattle covered in snow. It fell all through the night and it’s still falling as lunchtime approaches. This doesn’t happen that often here. Some years, it never happens. But it’s happening now, and whenever I look out at the limbs heavy with white, and the rooftops blanketed, and the parked cars caked with untouched powder, I’m twelve again and glad there won’t be school.

I grew up in Providence where winter always meant snow, and there were usually a dozen nights I’d go to sleep measuring what was falling through the light of a streetlamp outside my bedroom window. Sometimes I knew, and sometimes I thought maybe, and sometimes I tried to fool myself, but by morning it was always clear. You’d listen to the radio for school closures just to be sure, but if it was a pure blanket, and if it was thick enough that all the contours of the snowless ground – the grass and pavement, the fallen tree limb, the sharp edge of the curb – were erased, you’d be home.

What a sweet release that was. A free day that fell to you from the sky, and for a few hours, before the plows came and cleared the roads for traffic and left the snow in ugly, brown-stained piles, everyone, young and old, had to cancel their plans and accept the day as it was. If you were young you played in it, and if you were older you maybe shoveled it or sat and drank coffee or did whatever it was grownups did when they couldn’t work.

I didn’t care what they did. I was glad that everything stopped, that everything could stop, that the great endless schedule of a city, the jobs and appointments and homework that seemed to turn as continually and naturally as the seasons, could be brought gently to its knees. It would all turn again, but standing in snow up to my thighs, hearing the winter whistling through bare branches where I had once heard the hush of rolling tires and grind of diesel engines, I glimpsed a stillness I knew always existed but often couldn’t find.

I couldn’t hold that stillness forever any more than I could a freshly packed snowball. You can spend your life waiting for it to fall to you, or you can find it wherever you stand – or maybe even sit, looking at a perfectly blank page empty of noisy words, a clean beginning before the rush of thought resumes.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.