Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snowed in

How to be carefree in a blizzard

Last weekend I got caught in a snowstorm. I had been visiting friends and family in River Falls, and though there were rumors a snow system was moving in, I was unaware of the magnitude of white fluffy stuff we were about to encounter. The snowfall began just before midnight on Saturday, and for the next 24 hours it did not stop.

The flakes fell from the sky so densely it looked like fog outside. At night the snowfall caught the street and Christmas lights of the town and swirled the yellow, red, and green rays into a living, breathing, motion-obsessed work of art. Nature seemed to be demanding that good citizens be outside catching snowflakes on tongues, and it wouldn't take no for an answer. It was like living in a movie - everything seemed magical; everything was made new, fresh, and beautiful. The brown stale of October and November was cleared away in a single overnight, wrapping up the world in a brilliant blanket of white like a present on Christmas day.

Brick buildings, lamp posts, trees, fields, and river banks - all bright and stunning in the daylight on Sunday, and still the snow continued to fall in sheets of damp fluff. The roads, of course, were impassable. So, instead of driving 190 miles back home, I hunkered down with family.

Oh how the winter weather can make the indoors so comfy. We ventured out into the winter wonderland very little that day, opting instead to spend time in close quarters, reinforce bonds, accept the lazy day laid before us with welcome arms, and watch the snow come down from behind the windows. You see, we all need days where we're unproductive. We need some time to simply exist and indulge in commonalities we all share, like napping, laughing, and jabbing at one another. These are ways in which bonds are created and reinforced, relationships strengthened. These are the good days we arrive at by going through the bad ones; everyone deserves a respite.

The snowstorm stopped life for a little while. Nobody was going to work, nobody was going to school, nobody was driving anywhere, period. Instead, my sister and I set out on a hike to the grocery store as suppertime was looming and the sunlight quickly fading. Where walkways and sidewalks would have been there were now only foot trails. Narrow paths forged by Wisconsinites shuffling here and there in boots, taking shortcuts through lawns, and occasionally pausing to make a snow angel or two.

Upon arrival at the store, we both danced around in the entryway. The dance was that of the traditional "I look like a snowman right now and it's all going to melt on me inside if I don't wipe it off before I go in." You know the one. Once inside, we collected essential foodstuffs such as ice cream, orange juice, chicken breasts, and, of course, chips. Then it was back out into the blizzard, to trudge the slippery, winding paths back to the hovel buried in a foot of fresh snowfall.

It was at this point I realized the day had slipped past too quickly, and I decided to stay outside for a while while my sister made dinner from our nutritious selection. Both of our cars were buried deep in a single snow bank now, which was contained on one side by a curb, and on the other by a two and a half foot wall of plowed snow plowed up from the road. I set to work with a shovel, digging out a path to both vehicles before crawling all over each, waving my arms like a madman and pushing the heavy accumulation to the ground. Then I shoveled that up and created enough space behind and in front of the cars to allow for a bit of maneuvering - so as not to get them stuck when we did try to move them. The idea was to make a lot less work in the morning so instead of shoveling and removing an entire snowdrift, we'd only need to brush off Sunday night's pile and hopefully be able to pull right out of the spots.

It felt good to have that amount of preparation out of the way. I could rest a little easier now when I thought about the journey home the following day and know I had a head start to a stressful drive. That, and I liked being able to help someone else. In fact, it was kind of addicting. I had exchanged a few words with the neighbor during the time I was shoveling and turned to help him finish with his driveway after I finished our cars. He thanked me, and offered to help with a push should I need it in the morning. After that, I assisted my sister's boyfriend shovel out his truck before I decided it was time for a break.

To end the night, before going in for supper, I took a little stroll across a suspension bridge nearby. The bridge hangs over a deep valley with the famed Kinnickinnic River running through a series of rapids far below. I stood in the dark staring down and out at the river in silence. A silence only those who have experienced a heavy snowfall at night can really understand - perfect.

The snow illuminated everything - its brilliant white drew a defined line along the rocky banks and the cold black water between them. Pretty soon, though, I was interrupting the silence by throwing snowballs into the river below. I grabbed a handful, compacted it with both hands and then worked on my pitching arm, listening for the dull "thwap" as the two water forms collided below. It was like being a kid again, if only for a little while - full of wonder.

“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” - Albert Einstein

See you out there,

A woodsman in training.

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