03 December, 2007

Snow...I just don't know...

"It's the snow! You know how I get. It's like catnip!" --Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

This quote mirrors my typical sentiment and yet, I'm not sure how I feel about the snow this year.

We had our first "big one" this past weekend. It came suddenly and with a burst of extreme cold. I was not at home for this first large snow of the season and my low level of excitement may be due to its untimely arrival.

Snow, for as long as I can remember, has regularly taught me one big lesson; SLOW DOWN. It does so in three ways.

#1 Driving. The first and most practical way snow teaches me to slow down is the fact that if you drive too quickly in it you will have an accident. Even here in the midwest where most people know how to drive in snow, the number of cars in the ditch attest to the fact that we still feel like we need to get somewhere fast instead of in one piece. I have done my share of fish-tailing, spinning my wheels, and gliding on black ice. While it is 100% true that some of this can be chalked up to the crappy dealership tires currently on my car, some of still has to do with my own sense of rushing or a stupid move of another rushing driver (cutting me off in order to pass a more cautious winter driver causing me to compress my brakes and slide not-so-gracefully onto the sleep strip of the highway...always remember, turn INTO the spin...). Slow down. The slower you are going, the less quickly you have to compress your brakes in a tight spot. The same applies to life.

#2 The "stay at home" factor. Snow makes me want to curl up on the couch or in my home office and shut down for a long winter's nap (or at least an afternoon's). Who wants to go out into traffic and crappy roads? I went out this weekend and although I had a good time, I really just wanted to hunker down in my hotel room, order local take-out, and watch stupid movies all day. This snow factor reminds me that slowing down isn't just about scheduling less or running fewer errands. It isn't just about spending less time going fast, but taking that extra time and using it to slow down our minds. Do something just for you; watch a movie, read a book, bake cookies, feed your soul.

#3 Seasonal pacing. No this isn't some psychological term I learned in a book. I experienced this firsthand. I lived in southern California for my four years of high school. Southern California has two seasons; wet and dry. The wet season probably totals no more than 30 days of anything from a gentle spritz (what we would calling heavy fog in the midwest) to a more typical downpour. The other 11 months are gorgeous. Now, I am not complaining about the weather...but I am going to point out the fact that if you don't have cold and snow you don't have a natural force slowing you down at any point during the year. Think about how quickly our lives move during the summer. The weather is warm, everybody wants to be outside, and life is grand. That feeling pervaded the entire year in Southern California. The pace might have slowed slightly due to the return of school in the fall, but then the outdoor sports kicked in. When it snows it is more challenging for us to be outdoors. It is more challenging for us to move from place to place and see people and attend events. There are at least 3 months of every year where nature forces us to slow down, sometimes even to the degree of our physical bodies (I'm not thinking of anything in particular...the nice muscle-cramping I'm getting in my shoulders from the cold that keeps me from easily reaching for the pencil container on my desk...)

The snows of the midwest pace our lives in a most significant way. It reminds us to slow down. It reminds us to move less quickly. It reminds us to take time to hunker down our minds. It reminds us to stop, warm up, and get our minds and bodies refreshed for the upcoming spring.

Maybe my lack of excitement is more a reflection of my hesitation to slow down than it is an actual distaste of the weather phenomenon because I cannot completely deny a certain measure of excitement for those first soft and delicate flakes of frozen water.

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