Monday, December 22, 2008

And I thought it was silent when it snowed in Wisconsin

I am in Portland, Oregon. I arrived here a few days ago to visit a good friend, and the first day I got here, she and I (both Wisconsin natives) laughed at the chains on the buses and cars. CHAINS? I mean, maybe I'd seen them in rural Wisconsin, but certainly never in the city. Never. And it was just slushy. Really, barely any weather - a bit of snow and some melting.

Day two, same thing. So light, so easy, a bit messy but for my tastes, better than the average rain of a Portland winter. I was updating my status on Facebook: Life is so easy, I can see the sky, as my partner and friends got pummeled on the east coast and in the Great Lakes area with feet of snow.

Then, as they say, those who laugh...
Day three, WE got pummeled. 1-2 feet of snow. And here's the catch - now I know why they use chains: because Portland owns all of two plows AND it's ILLEGAL to use salt! Some say it's because of ecological reasons, others because of economical reasons, but regardless, everything turns to ice quickly when there is no one to take it away and no salt to break it up. We did venture out - true Wisconsinites - and others were about - the weekend before Christmas, after all, so there was a fair amount of last minute shopping going on. Granted, this was pretty severe even for Wisconsin, but still handleable. Well, we were walking and well-dressed, which helps.

The fourth day I woke up and called an old high school friend to see if we could get together. She owns a spa and told me she's spent the last few days calling off all appointments as well as having to call her employees everyday just to say "not today - let's try tomorrow". Then she said something about an ice storm. Ice storm? Becky joked "maybe Portlanders don't know the difference between snow and ice?" But the woman I was talking to grew up in Wisconsin...

We turned on the forecast and then we really took a close look outside. Oh. Wow. That's not more snow, that's freezing rain.

The snow, covered in a thick crust of ice. The cars, already buried with their windshield wipers stuck in the air to prevent from freezing, like surrender. The roads, surprisingly not more thick, but branches encased in ice, powerlines down, the whole gig. All this, just days before Christmas. We stopped laughing. Work canceled for most of our friends, we snuggled in and made lots of food, and those who had to work strapped on whatever yak tracks and multi-layers they had and walked there. The buses are stranded all over the city. Flights canceled. And this morning, more snow.

So...I was to go home tomorrow. Mind you, this is a good place to be stranded, in a sweet upper apartment with more heat than it needs and vegan bakeries within blocks of us. Not to mention, with one of my best friends, with whom I have such an easy rapport it's like we've lived together in an efficiency without problems for years. And yet, what about my cats? And Dylan? We had no plans for the holiday but to be together...and now I am not so sure.

All of this having been said, one thing finally hit me this morning. One of the parts of snow I like the best (and I do really like snow) is that it hushes everything - car tires, voices, the whole nine. But here, to boot, there are no sounds of plows, barely any shoveling. And no one is out. It's a bit sci-fi really, but totally silent. Like I am on retreat.

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