A few weeks before snowmageddon I’d said to a friend, “we need a snow day,” a day when everything stops. When it’s ok to cozy up and tinker around on a steady rotation of read, write, eat, repeat—with walks and yoga mixed in. And then magically, mercifully, it came.
The snow began on a Sunday, the day after I returned from a week in Mexico. A place with its own “otherness,” like a snow day, because our small ship was a dot in a remote sea. In this tiny world without internet, we created community out of both necessity and intention. “It was unforgettable,” we said. “See you again soon” we promised. Maybe we would, or maybe those connections are limited, for a limited time in a limited place where the desert meets the sea. The Baja peninsula feels like someone picked up Arizona and plunked it in the middle of the ocean: arid and expansive with the mysticism of Sedona swirling in the mysteries of the sea. For me, it was magical. So when I returned to Seattle and woke up to snow, I thought, “Ah, yes. It’s not over yet. Life is still magical.”
But the city wasn’t quite ready for magic. A lot of people went in to work that week. Co-workers told their war stories of three-hour commutes that ended in martinis and pots of chili. But by Friday, we weren’t going to fight it anymore. We’d been told the next round of snow would come around one. My boss said she was leaving then. I’d biked in because it was clear in the morning. But at 12:15, in anticipation of leaving, I checked the Ballard library website to see how late they were open. If I was going to be snowed in, I needed to prepare. I stood up in an outburst, “I gotta get outta here! The library’s gonna close in 45 minutes!” I raced home on my bike just as the snow was starting to fall. As I got off my bike to walk across the locks, I noticed it was one of the few times I didn’t see another person crossing, just the fall of white on whitecaps.
I had never seen the Ballard library more packed. I could barely move through the DVD aisle. When the staff made the announcement, “The library will be closing in 10 minutes. Please bring your items to the checkout counter.” I impulsively grabbed the fifth season of Girls, the first season of Master of None, and Pretty in Pink because, really, what’s stopping me? And in a stroke of serendipity, Anne of Avonlea was also in stock. I snatched it. My holds by Anne Lamott, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Natalie Goldberg, among others, had also come in. Plus a six-disc set of Barbra Streisand live—and not a moment too soon. I was ready.
Friday night I swept the floor and watched Anne as the snow fell. Already I felt transported to a place like Avonlea, where tending to the home and meeting friends as weather allows is the best one can do. I also had on-hand, due to a numerical oversight, two 33-pound bags of dry cat food. Dollie and I were going to be just fine.
On Saturday I wanted to get outside and play. I suited up in snow-wear and headed west towards the water. My chronic plantar fasciitis had been feeling a little better since Mexico and the fresh snow was an added layer of support, so after I walked to the train bridge, I continued down to the water. People had already left cross-country ski tracks. I didn’t disturb the pristine double lines. People also made eye contact, smiled, and said ‘hello.’ The snow magic had already started. And three miles later, I felt a part of that magic.
I came home to eat tomato soup while Babs sang “People.” Then I walked four blocks to my friends’ house to eat Sugar on Snow. Sugar on Snow is a New England, originally Canadian, tradition of a homemade, winters’ day treat. You heat up maple syrup on the stove and then pour it over freshly gathered snow. If timed right, the maple syrup pools and hardens, turning into a stretchy, taffy-like candy you can wind up and twirl with a fork. My friends paired it with pickles and old-fashioned donuts. I liked it plain—pretending I was a homesteader living off the land, fortified by sugar and the will to make it through another storm. We walked her dog through the snow, distracting her with string cheese when another dog came along (there were many). Back at the house we drank wine and talked about what we might do during snowmageddon. “Do you have any projects?” I asked her husband. He seemed surprised. I explained it’s a good time to take care of the things you’ve been wanting to do around the house. But maybe, more importantly, it was a time to do nothing. I thought about that as I walked home through the white nothing, crunching the snow as twilight turned gray.
I’d already stepped into my friend community, now I wanted to step into my fitness community. So the next day I went to barre class. I wanted to move big, to tone the muscles I’d worked on yesterday’s walks. After class I walked up to another friend’s house. She’d been pressed against her picture window watching her neighbors sled down the street. That’s the other thing about snow: it takes the fear out of you. These sledders could have very easily slid into any number of mini vans and Subarus, but they hadn’t yet, so they kept going. After we visited on her couch, she sent me home with two sour cherry scones she’d made that morning. I tucked them in my backpack and ventured back into it.
I walked down to a bar to meet a different neighbor friend for beers. It’d been months since we’d seen each other—we’d both been travelling—and had a lot to catch up on. I had an IPA and a porter (because #snowmageddon) and hugged my friend goodbye as the white lights shone on snow. Except for the scones, I still had an almost empty backpack, so I stopped at the grocery store and picked up asparagus, salad, chips, and a couple of steaks. Let it snow.
Monday was, for me, the last real snow day. My team had seen it coming so we all worked from home. Around lunchtime I took a break to do yoga in my apartment. It had been lightly snowing with a little bit of rain that morning, but now it was really coming down. Big heavy, weighty flakes. I saluted them holding warrior one and two. It was one of the most empowering yoga practices I’d ever done at home. It must have been the weather, charging me on to bring the storm outside to a storm within. I’d also been getting better at crow pose recently, able to hold it for longer than one teetering second. So I tried it and felt time tick by: one, two, three seconds. And more. I smiled, almost laughing now, that I was doing this wild, strong thing from my tiny space—the same space I’d spent the morning proofing ads and writing about Hawaii. This bigness within smallness has always held meaning for me.
I’ve written about my relationship with creativity, and that moving creatively within a small space can actually be freeing. I’ve told you about switching from car to bike, and how that change moved me through emotions as I moved through the city. I’ve told you about my relationship with Buy Nothing and its gift of community. That community, that smallness, is what snow days are all about.
We don’t create community by going big. We create it by going very small. As small as we can. Sometimes staring at our cat asking, “How are you doing today?” or just within ourselves holding a fiery yoga pose. Now, I know that snowmageddon was a real nightmare for many people. I know there are many who did not have the luxury of lounging around watching movies, eating steak, and working from home. I know many moms who really wanted schools to reopen. But I also know that Tinder experienced a "swipe surge." And for me they were luxurious days. I slept longer and deeper than I had in months, waking as if I’d been on an overseas flight. It was an alternate universe of decadence I couldn’t get enough of. How many of you kind of didn’t want snowmageddon to end? Raise your hand if you’ve never heard your neighborhood so quiet? Raise your hand if you’ve never cleaned, cooked, and baked more? Raise your hand if you felt closer to your family and friends? Yep. Me too.
We live in a big, wild world with incredible opportunities for travel. That’s why when I leave Ballard, instead of just going across town, I usually go someplace like Southeast Asia or Mexico. But when I’m here, I’m here—operating within a tiny loop of friends and fitness. Reading and writing. Seeing how wide and wild my ideas and emotions can get by going small. Snow encourages this smallness, wrapping us in a hushed hug that reassures everything will be ok if we just stop for just a moment. Or a day. Or a few days. The busses will run again. The library will go back to regular hours. But this stillness is a gift. Pack it up in a tiny snowball and treasure it before it melts.