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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children's School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed...

         -- Excerpt from Billy Collins' "Snow Day"

I have just realized that if I want to be a writer, I can never move to Buffalo or Mount Rainier or Bangor or to any place where it snows much of the year. I’m sitting here in my living room, the entire school day cancelled, with the perfect opportunity to pack in a full day of writing, and all I can do is look outside and stare at the snow. It’s mesmerizing. I cannot think. I cannot plan. I cannot write. Even writing this post is a challenge. It must be something about the brilliant white glare of it all or the constant sense of movement in my peripheral vision or the sound of kids sledding down the hill across the street. Or possibly, it is the ache in my right shoulder from shoveling this morning that is making it difficult to type.

But maybe it’s just the sheer differentness of the world on a snow day that makes it impossible to carry out normal responsibilities—banks and schools and malls are closed—even some highways are closed!—and most sane people are either out sledding with their kids or at home with their loved ones, perhaps drinking hot chocolate or reading a good book under the covers. Snow gives us an excuse to be human again, to stop obsessing about the “to do” list at work, the chores around the house, the bills to be paid, the IRS forms to be completed. A snow day gives us a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature and the wonder of being together without the burden of obligation.

Last night, my husband and I watched Groundhog Day for about the eightieth time. If you’ve never seen it and are under the impression, like I was for years, that it’s another movie starring Bill Murray and a large rodent (Caddyshack, anyone?), please reconsider. Groundhog Day is about a selfish weatherman who gets stuck in a small town in the middle of a blizzard and is forced to live the same day over and over again until he can figure out what it means to truly live. Every time I watch the movie, I am struck by how funny, charming, insightful, and at times, touching it is. It is also surprisingly existential, asking the big question: “What are we really here for?”

I think a snow day gives us the opportunity to ask this question, too. With all normal routines suspended, life as we know it gets put on hold, and life, momentarily, is as it should be.