Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow Big Deal

It snowed again in Indiana last night, and I have to tell you - this morning, I'm conflicted. I'm broken-hearted, and yet, not entirely sure that's the right response either. It comes from watching my world respond to the snow.

On the one hand, it amazes me how quickly a little bit of snow shuts down my community, as broad as the community of my state and perhaps even beyond. They've been forecasting this storm for nearly a week, and we've heard everything from 30" + of snowfall to a an all-rain event to a mix of snow and ice. It seems to have fallen somewhere in that third category. I've already been out shoveling for a bit, and we've got about five and a half inches with a crunchy coating of ice on top. But people have been panicked over the forecast, even though it's February. In Indiana. And we do this every year. There's the customary rush on the stores, the crossed fingers for school closings, and one eye to the sky.

The news has been going extended and non-stop, with no actual news to report except that it snowed. In Indiana. In February. This isn't even our biggest snowfall of the season! The plows are doing a lackluster job of clearing the snow, cars are sliding off the roads, but many people stayed home today, victims of Mother Nature's latest trick.

On the other hand, some ventured out. Some refuse to be deterred by snow, and while I applaud their willingness to continue life as normal, a great deal of these folk are over-confident. They look at the snow, look at the ice, and determine this merits absolutely no change in their regular routine. They're driving the speed limit on snow-covered interstates, where no pavement or lane lines are visible. They're tailgating. They're rushing up on stop lights and stop signs as if this is any normal day. And they're sliding off, spinning out, and causing more trouble for others who have dared to live today. Just moments ago, the news chopper showed video of a spin-out on the freeway and jokingly commented, "Either that guy just spun out on the icy roads or he won a NASCAR race. I'm betting it's the former."

And I'm watching all of this, and I just don't know what to think. Have our lives and our technology become comfortable, but frail? Are we really living in a world that can't stand up to a little weather, where our cars don't function on a slick road and we're afraid to go out at all? Have we become so arrogant that we don't consider anything worthy of our hesitation? Two sides of a coin, and I don't particularly care for either.

I'm turning 29 in less than two weeks, and yet, I can clearly remember a time when it wasn't like this. The news didn't run 24/7 declaring a new snow in the middle of winter. People woke up, looked out their windows, saw a new snow, and grabbed a shovel. Kids grabbed their sleds. Everybody rushed outside to build snowmen, to dig the elderly out of their homes, to throw snowballs. I know children who are right now hearing, "You can't go out. It's cold and there's too much snow." What a thing!

We didn't cancel school, not even for subzero temperatures. We might have cancelled outdoor recess, but we knew the value of a day in the classroom. And more important, we knew to teach our kids that the world doesn't stop for the weather; it just hesitates a bit out of respect. But I also remember being in that classroom when the principal knocked on the door and asked for me and three other girls to grab our coats and come with him. The snow had drifted all the way to the top of the building in the corner by the music room, and he saw a photo opp. He asked us if we thought we could climb all the way up and we scurried, laughing, all the way to the roof. I wonder what ever happened to that photo.... We drove a little slower - we had to - but we got where we were going.

I don't know. I'm watching what's happening today, and this maybe the tenth or twelfth time this season that such a day has occurred, and I'm wondering what's happened to my world. We seem to have somewhere lost all respect, for creation and for ourselves, and it seems such a difficult thing to get back. We don't respect ourselves enough to think we can handle this. The helplessness - the learned helplessness - that I see reflected on the news, on Facebook, on Twitter, on my streets is alarming. We can't handle this? Really? And yet, among us we also have an arrogance that says this can't change us. The arrogance is already costing lives. Along with the arrogance is some kind of ignorance, like we don't understand what snow and ice even are. Like we don't buy into the laws of physics.

I'm looking for respect, on so many levels. We had it once. We had a world that knew that a day like today doesn't shut the world down, but neither does it leave it unchanged. A day like today makes everything hesitate. It makes us stop and evaluate our strengths, and our vulnerabilities. It makes us look at our limitations but with breathtaking beauty. It adds a measure of stillness into our hurried lives, and look at the soft white snow - how could it not?

Somehow, we've come to a place where we think everything is winners and losers. Either we defeat it or it defeats us. Someone, something has to come out on top. And we've forgotten how to live in harmony with such things. There is a way - it's a mutual respect and a humble appreciation and a certain embrace of life as we know it. Even on a day like today.

With a fresh bit of snow. In Indiana. In February.

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