When I was a kid, snow days were a lovely break from the boring grind of the classroom, worksheets and spelling tests and blah blah blah. When they announced school closures on the news, we kids cheered. My mother wept silently, slipping into the bathroom for a Valium or maybe a toke or two on an illicit joint as she envisioned a whole day trapped inside with us. Dad escaped to work and we played outside all day, pegging the neighbor's kids with snowballs and white-washing each other, building snow-forts and igloos and snowmen with ugly wool hats. It was fabulous and fun. Recently, I had a few snow days.... but somethng just wasn't the same- the thrill had gone out of it somehow...
Now, as an adult, I'm here to tell you it ain't all a winter wonderland.
Here's the breakdown of some statistics regarding and related to our recent snowfall and several cold spells over the past month:
Snowfall: About four feet of the white stuff, total, with drifts up to our windowsills in some places, easily seven or eight feet tall.
Vehicle Casualties: One battered Chevy Nova, which finally gave up the ghost during our first big storm. This means that my husband and I are carpooling in my truck, which is a stressful and expensive propostion with gas at a ridiculous $3.08 per gallon in good old Durango. Our other vehicle will not make it up the raw roads of our subdivision during the winter, so it's parked for the season. We even took it off of our insurance policy to save a little cash... which is great, because extra snow means...
Extra Expenses: About $200 in plowing fees to get our driveway plowed out, miscellaneous expenses for emergency items like batteries, propane, and distilled water for our camping stove, candles, etc. in order to survive while camped out in our house with no electricity, water, or telephone for four days. You might also want to budget for a few hundred to repair your bumper, door, etc., after the inevitable collision with a Texan in a Hummer who has no idea how to drive in the snow but insists on talking non-stop on a cell phone while he attempts to navigate the icy roads. Add in the cost of a broken snow shovel, because this will inevitably happen at the worst possible time and you will need to replace it before the next storm. You'll also want to reserve some funds to go out and get drunk during Durango's annual Snowdown, to get your mind off of the fact that this town is going to the dogs and the realtors. And if you injure yourself while shoveling your porch, well, there goes another couple hundred bucks to the chiropractor, acupuncturist, or doc of your choice.
All of these extra expenses are a real bummer, especially since you were snowed in when you were scheduled to be at work, earning your rent on this overpriced cabin in the woods that looked so seductive when you rented it last summer...so on top of the exorbitant plow driver's fees and a huge candle budget, you're making less money than ever...and in Durango, that's bare bones indeed. In a town where I once competed with a PhD candidate for a lousy $12-an hour job with a local non-profit, it hurts to lose even a day of work. Every dollar counts double in the winter time. Add in another two or three hundred bucks because the wood you cut all summer is almost gone and winter is still here, and maybe here to stay for a few more months. That's a heavy financial hit for some of us lower-income mountain folks. (We're the ones who rent a tiny cabin, rather than building a hemmorhoidal trust-funded trophy home on a ridge line. The ones who serve your drinks and take care of your kids and cook your $18 gourmet burgers.) Ouch.
It can be tough to make a living here, to stay here year-round when most of our wealthier neighbors only visit in the summertime.
But then... there are days like today, when I can sleep in and slop around the house, writing all morning and watching the snow pile up. I can drink ten cups of lemon ginger tea to stay warm and wear my favorite fuzzy socks and have a real snow day. Even taking into account all those expenses and headaches, you also have to factor in...
Perfect bluebird skies: infinite
Puffy little clouds that look like unicorns, maple leaves, dragons, and chubby baby elephants: priceless and lovely treasures of the sky.
Hot-tubbing parties under the stars: yay! Sheer joy and sweet debauchery, cake and champagne in the jacuzzi!
Each snowflake: unique and lovely ice-crystals, each one is a poem, the goddess in a fingerprint...
Our winter neighbors: ravens, magpies, deer, all kinds of other birds, other eccentic locals who keep mostly to themselves but will pull your truck out of a ditch if you get stuck. I prefer them to the summer folks who come to ride the train and leave with nothing of this place inside their bones... Those soft-looking Texans in their cowboy hats who wouldn't know what to do with a snow-shovel if they were buried in a snow-drift...they don't belong here. The raven and the deer are here to stay, and so are we.
The sight of a single wing-tip brushing the snow, silent as a sigh. Tracks of a mole in a white winter feel. Scuffled marks of the pounce, the kill, oddly beautiful.
Endless games of gin rummy, Chinese checkers and Mancala, played with my husband while the snow fell down outside.
Sitting in front of the fire.
Snowshoeing trips into the wild and back out again... coming home and coming home and coming home, building a fire and making dinner...and hoping secretly for another snow day tomorrow. The raven and the deer are here to stay... and so are we.
-February 15th, 2008
Another Snow Day