Mind Matters — Diary of Snow

February 10, 2010: Snow night—Blizzard zaps power. I sit in candlelight in the youngest part of this circa 1830 stone house that remembers days with dark nights, the wax of candles rationed, but not saved for romantic dinners. I know many who despise these snow times, especially when the electricity fails. Tomorrow, I may worry about things spoiling in the refrigerator or about hot water for a shower. But tonight I so relish, savor the silence. Without traffic, without light, without the computer hum or TV glare, I hear and see differently. The cuckoo clock carries a subtle sound I hadn’t noticed. The shadow of my pen on paper begins to be of interest. The candle’s flickering against dark, seduces me to meditate: El Greco could have painted its sinuous length.

We must be forced, it seems, into hibernation. Unbalanced, we keep active through artificial light pushing away what we need most. In solitude, we hush to hear, come into the dark to see.

February 12, 2010: Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. We have, it would seem, a love-hate relationship with snow. We sing songs about winter wonderlands and dreams of a white Christmas. We flock the Christmas tree and dance with Frosty the Snowman. On the other hand, we don’t like the way it keeps us from work—only children seeming to like snow days, while their parents feel overwhelmed with their snow-bound presence.

Perhaps it has to do with being versus doing: shovel snow, take care of kids, dig the car out, worry about gutters draining, roof leaking. Yet there is being to be found when a big snow comes. So many lovely moments to witness: such whiteness transforms even the trash can into Wyeth art. Silence descends, birds arrive, never to have been seen before. Neighbors help each other, eat together, talk together: can’t run away from home in a car to a place that’s closed anyway. And without electricity, shelved books get read, dusty games get played, and conversation is central rather than TV.

Snow has something to teach us, who in the Mid-Atlantic states have an anxious relationship with it. (Some New Englanders and Canadians, prepared as they are, are feeling a bit deprived.) We could learn that even sans snow, the TV could sit, silent witness to our conversation with neighbors. We could take a “snowy Sabbath” day—resting with a book, taking a quiet walk, pretending phones and computers are out of commission. Perhaps there is power in letting ourselves “lose power.”

Of course, we rely on phones working, lights going on, having heat, roads being cleared. When in an instant that is gone, that is a lesson too: to empathize and know just a minute fraction of what it feels like to be caught in the crossfire of war, or coping with the aftermath of earthquake or flood where even the simplest of amenities are lost for a long time.

February 15, 2010: As I edit this writing, I already am in status quo mode of schedules and doing and the silent night of snow is an elusive memory.

February 17,2010: Ah, there is, however the solitude of cross country skiing!