Monday, January 10, 2011

Suspended animation


When snow falls, the city goes quiet.  Car and truck noises cease.  So unimaginable is the cessation of this constant motorized background noise to our lives, that it seems as if the snow has simply wrapped the normal sounds of urban life in a muffling blanket.


We become fascinated with areas of untouched snow.  For a moment, we can imagine that no one has set foot on that space at all.  Everything is restored to its original state, before human witnesses.  Or perhaps it is as if humans have been removed from the scene, and the world can proceed without our interference.


Traces of alien life are visible.  Their comings and goings are recorded, and we believe we can know who they were, and what their cat paws felt picking their way through the cold landscape.


Gradually the environment comes back to life.  Children make their way out to have snowball fights and build forts.  Intrepid souls with four-wheel-drive trucks and joyriders with all-terrain vehicles roar down the street occasionally.  It becomes conceivable to leave the house and carry on normal activities.


The snow day is a day out of time.  No doubt we pay for its lost productivity in the days to come.  But for all that becomes commonplace on that day -- hot cocoa, tomato soup, extra layers of clothing, icicles on the roof, empty streets, snow-coated mittens in the dryer -- that are unusual during the rest of the year, it is surely worth it.

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