VII. Blizzard in the City

(Wauwatosa, January, 2014) The first winter of my retirement was moving along nicely until that Monday morning in January. Sometimes it’s those simple naturel events that can be both jarring and thought provoking. I woke to the sounds of the wind howling and pulled back the shade. Looking out to the soccer field across the street, I saw that mountains of snow had fallen over night. The big, white, fluffy flakes were thick as the wind swirled them in the air. The weather channel said this was only the beginning.

The swirling outside matched the spinning in my head as I recalled more than thirty years of braving any kind of the weather to get to my oh so important jobs. This morning, my initial feeling was a gut tightening worry. Then, I stopped short and got a grip on reality. I realized this was the first time I didn’t have to get up and go to work in a blizzard. My very first time! Mixed in with the delight were shades of other days and past anxieties.

I’d lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where Lake Superior was just the right distance away for storms to dump its lake effect snow on us. Hence the name Big Snow Country. The lake effect snow was deceiving. It’s so light and airy as it hits the ground. But it mounts up just the same. It was common to get eighteen inches overnight and like nothing to have snowfall in that range three or more times per week. It was just part of everyday life. I remember many times being awakened at 3:00am by the faraway rumble of the snowplow. I’d never missed work because of the weather in the fifteen years I lived there.

Main highways and roads to the ski hills were the first to be plowed. But another wrinkle was added when I took a job in White Pine. No longer on the main roads, in pitch darkness, I drove a two lane county trunk highway and many times I never passed another car during the entire trip. I see now how dangerous this was. Who would have found me if I’d gone off the road into a snow bank. I recall my return to calm, seeing in the distance, the blinking light for the turn into White Pine. What a relief; I’d made it another day.

Each county in Upper Michigan decided which time zone to adopt. Those near the Wisconsin border chose central time. So, I lived in a county in the central time zone and worked in a county in the eastern time zone. This meant I’d have to leave for work at 6:00am central time to get to work by 7:00am central time which at my job was 8:00am eastern time. The hour gained when I returned home at night wasn’t much consolation. All this to get to another oh so important job.

Residuals of living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we got 200 to 300 inches of snow each and every year, still descend upon me every fall. My mood goes down, down, down. Even though it’s been thirty years since I left there. Every fall, the enjoyment of this great season is muted as I mentally get ready for winter.

Those feelings surfaced again when I lived in Eagle River where we got a fair amount of snow but not the lake effect kind. It was the more usual Wisconsin wet, heavy kind. The roads were plowed but nowhere near as efficiently as in the UP. And the city didn’t get around to plowing streets for several days, making driving through town more of a challenge than on the highway. In this rural, small town there was nothing but isolation when the power went out or the storm raged on. Living on a dead end gravel road with no street lights or neighbors was daunting. Would I be okay? Would someone know I’m here all alone?

A blizzard in a city is much different than the one’s I’d experienced in the remote places of my past. Now, I’m in a large building, surrounded by other people just like me. And the city takes care of everything. I felt so safe and smug. This only reinforced the wisdom of my decision several months ago to move here.

My perspective about those oh so important jobs has changed too. I can see now that missing one day would’ve made very little difference. Perhaps it’s hard to accept how really unimportant we are. I could have played sick or lazy or anything and the world would have gone on. Darn that work ethic. I’m relieved that I’ll never have to worry about those things again.

The snow was beautiful that day. So white and clean. I’d never enjoyed this weather phenomenon so much before, seeing it for the beauty it is instead of as a barrier or a challenge. With all these thoughts and memories still flying around in my head, I settled in for a day at home.

I fixed a cup of chai tea and sat by the window watching the traffic slipping and sliding along. The snowplows chugging away. As I sipped my tea that morning, I thought it made sense that these long forgotten memories came back in a rush. All the more to be thankful for. I could sit as long as I wanted and enjoy the peace and serenity of the falling snow. Heaven is having no place you have to go during a blizzard in the city



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog Stats

  • 4,300 hits


%d bloggers like this: