It's been snowing for a month. The first storm came during dead week at beginning of December. Although 'storm' is a rather grandiose name for what was, in reality, a rather peaceful occurrence. The snow snuck up in the night. It was long predicted with much drama and fanfare on behalf of the local media, to which viewers sighed and rolled our eyes, again. This is Nebraska. It snows. Snow in and of itself is of little concern, wind and cold are much more deadly and ice worse by far. This 'storm' had none.
I walked through that snow. It fell peacefully and quiet. The entire city carried the pink tint of night, city lights reflecting from soft white surfaces and the low, heavy underbellies of clouds. It was well past midnight and the snow was already several inches, with several inches yet to fall. The University closed for a day and a half that week.
Snow has been on the ground ever since, piling up along the roads and on the corners. Christmas brought more, another 'major snow event' in the language of meteorologists. I spent the storm, this time with accompanying wind, cold, and ice, safely ensconced in my parents home. The following weeks have brought more snow, a few inches every few days. The last week or so has included frigid temperatures. I've walked to work in the morning in single digits, both positive and negative, and dangerous wind chills, making me glad for my warm winter gear and the fact that it's only four blocks.
These are like the winters we had when I was a kid. It would start snowing around Thanksgiving and the landscape would be white for three months. We might have one or two welcome thaws, but then the snow would return. They stopped sometime in high school. Snow became sparse on the ground and people talked about drought. Then winters became warmer. Autumn lasted longer and spring came sooner. We've have two instances of real winter that I can remember in the last decade, and the other lasted only a few weeks.
I know I'm not the only one who've noticed this. Reading Laura Ingles Wilder shows winters stronger by far than anything I've ever seen. Talking to my parents and grandparents is the same. I've never seen snow up to the eaves of the house or had to tunnel to the barn. Although it may be indicative of greater issues, I for one am glad I've never seen a winter like that.
I've felt isolated for the past month and I live in the middle of a city. I always feel a little isolated during winter break. I expect it. The snow has magnified this sensation. I feel like hibernating - curling up at home, reading books, eating, drinking warm tea, watching television and playing with my cat. It's winter, real winter, and I have this instinctual desire not to stray far from the safety of my cave.
This cold snap has spread as far south as Florida where they're in fear for their citrus crop. NPR reported that four people in Tennessee died of the cold this week, which is baffling to those of us farther north, but sad nonetheless. Every year a few people get their cars stuck in the snow and try to walk out, causing much sad head shaking in the spring when the bodies are found. (Everyone knows you stay with the car.) Much of the rest of the country is dismayed, while we just shrug and carry on.
The city is still active, for all that it's half empty, but I think perhaps I'm not the only one feeling the snow. The coffee houses and restaurants are full, the bookstores and video stores busy, and the movie theaters doing good business. People seek each others company, but don't want to go far. There's no lack of folks hurrying around downtown or along 16th outside my house, wearing tall boots to wade through the snow. The homeless guys are still there on the corner of 14th and P, though I desperately hope they have somewhere warm to go at night. I'm looking forward to the start of school next week, to seeing and talking to people with more than a three word vocabulary and an interest in more than laps, naps, and feathers on a stick.
I think it won't stop snowing anytime soon though.