Snow Down

Winter has finally arrived in Boston just in time for spring. The seasons have been steadily migrating for quite a while now, which is totally nothing to worry about if you’re psyched about the prospect of taking an evolutionary leap and growing gills or think you might be able to harvest soybeans in your bathtub. The cold settled into New England right on time in December. The white stuff failed to make a real appearance until just recently, dousing us with enough snow pack for sledding and plowing and shoveling and swearing and the ceremonial lugging out of your ironing board to use as a precious parking space saver. We took our whole damn country back from England, you think we’re going to let some yahoo swoop in with his freaking Yaris and take our parking space we spent two hours clearing? Think again, pal.

The upside about our bizarro winter is that when the snow shows up relatively late in the game, at that point you’re only driven to fits of rage and despair from the unrelenting cold and not necessarily from a combination of arctic freeze and merciless snowfall. Which is to say you might actually find the occasional snowy day a bit enjoyable. To be sure, that joy will sour when you’re hiding Easter eggs under six inches of fresh powder, but the first couple of snowstorms can be something worth embracing.

I took myself into the city during one of our recent storms. The snow fell mostly overnight, but lingered throughout the following day in the form of that softly spitting type of precipitation, the kind that forces you to turn on your windshield wipers every few minutes to wipe the view clean. It happened to be a holiday weekend so the city already had a lazy, sleepy feel to it. The storm added to the stilled atmosphere with less cars and buses on the street and fewer people scuttling to work and appointments. Walking around the sparsely populated streets, I felt like the city was showing off just for me. I could tell from the other people I encountered—photographers, couples and families strolling, runners, and dog walkers—we shared the same sense of sweet insulation, of pleasant transportation out of what was familiar and typical to what was suddenly changed.  

I adore my gritty, funky, uptight, ball busting city in every season, with all its warts, weird angles, eyesores, and staggering beauty. The snow made everything in town look different; everything from brownstone steps coated in white drifts to statues appearing particularly stark against the snow to the walking paths along the river blanketed over like an urban tundra, became majestic, astonishing, and artful. The snow also made the entire city feel different, as if Boston were a big rig suddenly downshifting from 75mph to a crawl, inviting you along for the ride.  

I let myself become aimless, tracing familiar routes made unfamiliar from the storm. I stopped often and just stood, not reaching for my camera, but planted, breathing in the sharp, cold air without the metallic tinge that usually laces the city atmosphere. I released whatever sense of urgency I had to make the most of my time in town and instead let the time make the most of itself.

Be quiet, just look, the city sighed between the thin strands of falling snow. Slow down, spend time, spend your attention here, right where you are, which is all there is any day, rain, snow, locusts, or shine. It was the kind of imperative you feel hiking in the woods or exploring a sandy coastline; it was a startling directive from a place built on centuries of industrial churn and a voracious demand for action, growth, biggah, tallah. It was something to be ignored at your own loss—the chance to glimpse and savor the city’s sister self before it receded into the memory of just one more snowy day in winter.

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