Reflections from the Snowstorm


"It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is."

                                                                          Desiderius Erasmus


We interrupt this cheerful quote with a...

snowstorm warning sign

The snow that's responsible for alarming colors on maps, along with dire warnings on the news is accumulating outside. The storm has transformed from a frenzied, fast-falling mix of slush-like rain into large, fluffy, snowflakes. And we're told it will go back to the former again. It's a "two-part storm," they say. As I write, the window looks like a quaint picture from a greeting card. But as a motorist whose car was hit and slid like a billiard snow and windowball into the side pocket on the Belt Parkway, I grasp the peril of a slippery road surface. But all danger aside, it's nature, being what it is and doing what it does when it's cloudy and cold. And at this moment, it looks beautiful.

When my car was hit from behind on the parkway in the snowstorm, it was the same as it is now - powdery and thick. It was treacherous to drive on, even though we inched along. But I had five-hundred dollars worth of Broadway show tickets for that day in my possession. It was a gift from friends and me. We were going to celebrate the birthday of our friend, who we'll call Tracy. At the time, she was navigating through a sustained period of pain and seismic change.

As she emerged from it all, she determined to do more than survive. She wanted to live. I was in awe, but I was a worrier and wanted to reel in her independence just a tad. I leveraged fear with rationalization. I didn't live nearby, but I listened close, recommending the sort of gatherings and friends she should seek, the "right" friends who'd be supportive, caring, trustworthy.

car and wipersI learned a lot just watching her rebirth. Instead of seeking out the right friends, she accepted others for who they were. But she didn't alter her personality, or concern herself with the prejudices or judgment of others. There was no chameleon-like behavior, no avoidance, no backing down.

It was an awesome metamorphosis that I witnessed. It contained lessons too easily forgotten, but somehow the reminders show up just when their most needed. And the snowstorm brought it back.

I turned on our local news channel this afternoon as the weather caster finished the segment with this warning about being outside: "Be smart, not stupid." The news anchor fixed it and said "We call it 'sensible'."

This winter, I discovered that I like to shovel snow. But I am sensible about it, not stupid. I shovel small increments so I don't walk bent in half for three weeks. I won't emphasize my enjoyment of it too strong. I don't like it that much. There's just something about carving the first path through the fresh fallen snow that feels right, dogliberating. Then I go indoors and shiver for three hours, and just when the icicles on my eyelashes melt, I look outside and it's all back. That's winter on the east coast this year. It's cold, and it's snowy.

The photograph of the snow-covered car was taken at the LIRR train station. I never saw the wipers stuck out at the train station in the past, but I learned that "trick" while I worked in retail.

A wintry mix of snow and ice was on its way when I drove to work. When I arrived, the store manager asked me if I stuck my windshield wiper blades out. I said no. "Go do it right now," she said. "I'll cover the store." Sounded urgent. I had no idea why I was doing it, but I did. When I returned to my car several hours later, there was about three inches of ice encasing the pivot point of the blades so I could not lay them down without a blow torch to melt the ice. I drove home like that, with my blades sticking out. I never did that again.

Even my four-legged friend, who normally loves snow, resists the outdoors today. This morning, I opened the door, he looked outside and turned around and came back. He resumed his place on the floor, flashing me a buzz off look.

When we were kids, we loved snow, and would have relished a day off from school to play in it. We sifted through a large boot box that contained about eighteen boots in different sizes until we found a pair that fit. Then we bounced down the back steps and tore outside. I loved the sight of the untouched snow... the white out. A couple of us built an igloo or a snowman. Then we coordinated a snowball fight and played until the day was over. But today I look at the weather report. I hear people talk about it, and I wonder about the sense of an impending weather crisis. The warnings smack of my attempt to direct my friend: BE CAREFUL!

I've rambled today. But if a theme emerged, I hope it was: Snow will be snow. Be yourself. Don't let your windshield wiper blades get frozen sticking out.

If it interests you, if you click the alarming storm warning in the heading. You'll be brought to an article by Live Science that describes the country's worst storms, beginning in the 1800s.

Stay warm. Have fun!