The media hype machine has been stirring its pot for a week on this one. Feet of snow, blowing drifts, biggest dump sine the airport was built. Meteorologists, the ones that know science is probability, cautioned the limits of their art. Caution doesn’t sell what’s left of newspapers. Snowmaggeddon is coming, they insisted. The city listened and is silent, raptured to an end of snow. It’s some of the most fun you can have.
Sunday and Monday brought a slight taste, a gentle, elegant snowfall that led to shoveling and contemplation of childhood East Coast winters. I drove myself to work in twenty minutes to end up answering email I could have from home, then racing home to make dinner for a guest. White limned some building lines and thicker tree limbs, but that night was solid rain.
Tuesday tested the faithful in their hope for calamity. People came to work and fled early anticipating sleeping on the floor in the dark as most of us did in 2006, when the last massive storm knocked down every power line and wind and snow blew out of Jack London. I did not get that sense this time; this was more normal, the kind of thing that comes out of Canada every so often and falls apart at the last minute. Local public radio semi-celebrity Cliff Mass, a University of Washington meteorologist, kept insisting the big dump was at the limit of the art–nothing is known for certain. Seattle Times readers groused in the comments about being led on, media phonies, global warming kooks. Mass responded by taking criticism of the local media’s snow-salacious headlines off his blog and posting images from our brand new radar.
Last night I had improv class as usual, which surprised me. Even with clear streets and mid-30s, I had assumed the mass panic would command them too. Instead a class of nine got the wringer in second-level improv. We pack the elevator later, joking about it, figuring out rides. The parking lot is a glaze of ice, the city still, hunkered. At home the house is cold with the heat pushed down. I neither hope nor dismiss, answering emails, looking out the window.
For a while before bed I feel like high school when it became cool to dismiss and be jaded but this act not covering the youthful exuberance well. I am neither happy nor sad the snow is coming. Something has settled since Monday: a fearfulness, the slim reverb of nameless doubt, shame, guilt. Something somewhere knows something is wrong. Everyone will know soon. The cat sits on the bed and watches me brush my teeth and I wonder what or who this is. Monkey spoke in chatter and at least was company. This is frost of imagining that bites skin from the inside. Frost doesn’t hear or listen. I pull the covers up, knowing it’s just rain outside the window, and wonder who I am.
Alarm gets me up at seven, not full dark but not quite light. In the moments lifting out of sleep I am remembering who I am, then where, then snow. There is the moment of reveal before the curtain swings away, that liminal eternity where I am always reaching and the curtain is always receding, and then the distance is closed and the curtain is slowly pulled aside. The world is respectably white. I go back to sleep.
More than a dusting but less than the crippling cocoon foretold a weekend ago, it’s a fair snowfall. It might be the first real snow of my Ontario childhood, the one around Halloween, or easily the standard issue crippling end-times snow for Fort Worth. Here everyone has stayed home. Trash trucks and school buses that would normally roar up and down the street are nowhere. The snow is disturbed by few tire tracks.
It’s not crippling snow: chains would help but aren’t mandatory for making it up the Lucile Street hill. The warm ground separates the snow from it easily when kicked; with about four inches of snow, a brake stomp would get to pavement after a few sliding feet.
This guy drives past without difficulty but hesitates before going down the steep winding decline to Airport Way. Not sure why. They look like warm climate people: very worried.
Pinprick snow falls hard enough to sting the eyes and hide the city.
The Elysian Brewing Company, housed here, chugs away. Walking past I can hear music booming through the sheet metal, an auger grinding at the bottom of a tank.
Buses have been chained since the weekend, blocking traffic the past two days with their bumbling 40mph on freeways. Today their chained whumpawhumpawhumpa is muffled, as though driving over feathers.
The snow, even in the overcast, is incredibly bright.
Walking back up from Georgetown, the neighborhood is not as groomed as on Sunday. Only a few paths have been cleared. The more adventurous must have gotten all the cardio they wanted on Sunday.
I pass the local Catholic school. It looks like my elementary school in Uxbridge, Ontario, in 1976. All the street needs is land yacht sedans and it could be a period movie.
The snow is heavy and damp, as if curdled. It has heft, makes great snowballs. The street is open but a dad and some kids try sledding anyway, to much delighted screaming.
I visit a friend downtown this afternoon, so on the way home get to see how Capitol Hill coolster sophisticates do snow frolic.
The city is not so much depopulated as de-car-ed. People lift their feet straight up, straight down, straight in the middle of the street, the cars parked like the abandoned debris of an aftermath movie.
The normally frequent buses are thirty, forty minutes apart now, if I am to trust the app that gives me the times. Downtown, normally bustling, has the lights on but is only modestly attended. Far more bedraggled guys looking for change out than usual. Nordstrom’s has quickly printed flyers taped to the doors: closing at six due to weather, sorry for the inconvenience. I look at overpriced shoes and then head for the bus. Buses in the tunnel sport high caps of snow, but the trains move unimpeded and have no snow on top. People move slowly inside their shells of outerwear.
When the bus comes, even later than the app said, only normal people get on. Schizophrenics must only be on clement nights. The bus makes its usual route, the only difference the steady purring whump from the chains.
At my stop, three people get off. A snow closure sign is at the base of Lucile now. Kids are trying sledding with mixed success.
Walking under the Interstate bridge, trucks passing overhead, their chains buzzing, sound like great zippers.
I shovel snow. Smarter to have gotten up when I first woke and done it then, but it’s good to do it, to feel the heft of the wet snow, fat as lard. It breaks cleanly from the concrete and falls in bluewhite chunks stained pink from the streetlight. Kids still sled up the street and it doesn’t feel cold, not with shoveling. It feels solid and real, the bit of old time I feel leaking in more a suggestion than overwhelming presence. My house is a new one, and the snow and the concrete both are clean.