I think there were no words more romantic than these when I was a kid, and they lost none of their glory or shine by being repeated pretty often. I don’t know how many such days I reveled in as a proper child, but in my last year of high school, there were no fewer than 18 days of school cancelled because the snow and wind were just too many for us. (That was the same year I pulled the muscles between my ribs by shoveling snow too long and too strenuously in one go; my heart was broken and I was trying to finish the job and kill it completely.)
But as a kid…the snow drifts towering above my head, my mittens and scarf frozen, my face (I’m sure) a reddish mass of crystallized snot—damn, it was glorious! No sense of the cold, no aches, no responsibilities, no noise: just wonder, and play, and a sense of time as bigger and longer and more enduring than anything else. Snow days felt like they lasted for weeks on end. Time felt like freedom and not a sentence or a trap during those cold, muffled days.
After my wonderfully snowbound grade 12 year, I haven’t enjoyed even one official snow day. My step-brother in Halifax informs me he had one as recently as the last couple weeks, so I know they happen; but I’ve been obliged to go to school and/or work through ice storms and 4 feet of snow and major power outages in the past 20+ years. Toronto, having once called in the military to brandish its terrible shovels and salt buckets against what was only a middling to bad storm, is now apparently too proud to ever admit full climatological defeat.
But I do still enjoy snowy days, particularly getting up very early to shovel the sidewalk, as I did this morning. There’s something about being out in the dark, alone with the sad processions of snow plows going up and down the street, the scraping of others’ shovels—and no other noise. The usual business of morning, of life and commuting, and chattering on smartphones can’t stand against weather like this. It quiets itself, somehow, and I feel like we’re all shrinking, and feel ourselves to be shrinking, in relation to this thing that will always be bigger and more interesting and obviously more enduring than we are.
I don’t think this is a bad thing; I don’t know how wonder can be built upon anything but honest humility. Many things in life still fill me with wonder but none so much as a great snowfall; for me, snow’s greatest power is in the quiet it imposes. As a big city dweller, my world is almost never quiet and so I revel in these moments, for they allow for the brief but bolstering illusion that I am alone with my thoughts, alone with my adopted city. A great blanket of snow makes me feel that time is stretching itself out forever and taking me along with it.
I don’t deny that snow storms make things difficult and inconvenient, but this too is part of the romance. Sometimes I become quite sick of everything being valued almost entirely along the lines of ease and speed; snow in its blind and disinterested might forces us all to slow down for just a little while.