Saturday, January 10, 2009

Heavy Quietness

Today Chicago got several inches of snow. When I woke up this morning at 7 a.m. there were a good few inches of snow on all the cars outside and it was still snowing. It was still snowing two and a half hours later as I fought my way through unplowed streets to go meet friends for brunch. I was almost knee-deep in it wherever I walked.

It was still snowing (even harder) at noon when I gratefully accepted a ride to the el train station so I could go downtown. The prediction was that it would continue to snow into the afternoon. When it snows that hard, salt trucks and snowblowers can't keep up and the roads and sidewalks become stark white barriers to mobility. The streets that have gotten some salt develop huge puddles at the corners where people have to cross. My boots were barely keeping my socks dry and my right ankle was hurting like an old person with every step.

But I loved it. I was born and raised in California, but I love this weather. At the age of 22 I moved from California to upstate New York, which was where I realized that I loved seasons and never wanted to live in California again. On my 27th birthday I moved to Chicago, partly for the cold, snowy, long winters. I've been here 15 and a half years and I still enjoy the winters. I never expect to move again.

What I love about a day like today is that the snowfall gives everyone the perfect excuse not to do stuff. The news broadcast even advised that if you didn't absolutely have to go somewhere you should stay home. Great! What better reason to blow off running errands and just curl up with a good magazine or your TiVo list. When you're tired of that, there's going online, trying out a new recipe, calling someone just to chat or simply lying still and falling asleep. These are my favorite things to do.

I love snowy winter days like this because things slow down and get so much quieter. You can just give up on the outside world, turn inward and enjoy the silence. I just made one trip before I gave up and spent the day at home. As I sat on the train, which trundled slowly along, I gazed at the beauty of the city under snow siege. The rooftops looked like frosted cakes to me, and there's nothing I like better than frosted cake. In fact, the whole world looks like a dessert to me when the snow is coming down like that. I know it eventually goes gray and slushy, but at first it's beautiful. The few people in the train car sat in silence, as if in reverence to the January display.

When I got home, I lay down on the couch and savored the sound of emptiness. A heavy snowfall like this can even silence Saturday afternoon in the city. Now it's 8:30 p.m. and it's still quiet. One of the things I dislike about warm weather is how it brings everyone outside where we all have to hear each other's business. This is so much better.

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