A Snow Day


snowy morningThe first snow of the year, and the first noticeable snow of this winter, fell here in D.C. on Tuesday. Yes, we know that our reaction to snow makes no sense. No, we don’t have enough snowplows. No, we don’t know how to drive in snow. You’re very clever for noticing, People Who Live In Consistently Snowy Places.

A few inches of snow wreaked the usual havoc. Screenshots of the traffic maps this morning showed red spaghetti. Schools delayed, then closed, or didn’t close and earned their very own trending hashtag (#closeFCPS). Some find the chaos profitable–“body shop weather,” an acquaintance who manages such a business called it. Many, I gather, find it annoying.

With no car to keep out of the ditch or kids to worry about, snow still holds that joy of childhood for me – the promise of a special day, just because the moisture and the cold collided in just the right way in my part of the world. Even though I don’t get days off for meteorology anymore, because I work for a company headquartered in a place that gets serious snow. But a snow day still feels special, a cold, white present from the sky, a literal gift from above.

Tuesday I took the subway to a meeting–minor delays, got a seat, plenty of time to review the agenda–and was the first to arrive. This gave me time to fix a situation I’d noticed the last time: blinds adjusted to keep the light out, rather than to let the view in. I straightened them and took my place by the opposite wall.

I love when snow swirls, snowglobe-style, but this was a more serious variety. It streaked straight, top right to down left, parallel lines against a white-gray sky. Occasionally a bigger clump would fall off the building, down past the window. In the distance, leafless winter trees were outlined in white. The American flag out front flapped and swirled, soggily.

By the time the meeting ended in the early afternoon, the snow had stopped. The sidewalks were clear. Cardinals chirped and flapped among the shrubs and trees. A male perched a few feet off the ground. He shuffled on his branch, red feathers puffed up against the cold, knocking some of the wet snow on the ground.

The bitter cold of the next few days will keep the snow around. Today’s pleasant coating will have plenty of time to turn gritty and icy and outstay its welcome. Later the gray-browns and greens of winter will re-emerge and soon enough we’ll be back to the dreadful cold rains that are our normal winter precipitation. But for just a moment we get to experience our world, snuggled under a blanket of white.

Photo: Helen Fields

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4 thoughts on “A Snow Day

  1. Thank you for the focus on what was important. I’ve been caught up in all the Monday morning quarterbacking on who was responsible for the mess: NWS blew it, VDOT blew it, DC’s new mayor blew it, yada yada. The snow started–started!– at the same time as the area’s extended commute, which complicates response, and came in more enthusiastically than the low figures the media and public optimistically fixed upon. With the intensifying cold, I suspect the snow will be around longer than the debate; I hope so, anyway.

  2. I just love your article and it rings so true for me. I had to drive from Lewes, DE to Cumberland, MD on Tuesday. Typically a 4.5 hour drive and it took me the best part of 8 hours due to the snow and the traffic yet I still found joy in the calming effect of the falling snow. I used to really enjoy winter and the cold that came with it but I’ve gotten to like a 70 degree day so much more. That is until snow starts to fall…!

  3. Regarding “Some find the chaos profitable–“body shop weather,” an acquaintance who manages such a business called it.”, a body-shop owner I know humorously says he’s in the “Misery Business”. (That can also describe other occupations, doctors, shrinks, lawyers, etc.)

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