Joanna Rutter headshot

by Joanna Rutter

The anticipation builds in the days before, a groundswell of glee brought on by friends’ eager retweets of dire predictions with fluorescent maps detailing the storm, urgent auto-texts from well-meaning robots warning about the danger ahead. Grocery stores become battle zones for the last loaves of bread, which are never so highly prized until they’re seen as apocalyptic necessities. And when the first flakes start to descend, the roads empty and the city falls silent, waiting.

Snow days in North Carolina are something of an anthropological mystery to me. I’ve observed the shutting down of the whole town as an area-wide exhale: permission to not show up, a day where hiding is okay. It’s an extended siesta from regular life.

More than just permission to hibernate, snow days carry their own transformative magic. Time slows, and I can measure the passing of the day in pots of coffee instead of hours. Cooking can become gentler, carefully slicing each potato for a curry by the muted white light coming through the window, which casts a peaceful glow over my actions.

The whole city takes on a different feel in the silence. A walk in the arboretum while a layer of sleet comes pelting sideways is like a journey in a space landscape; my roommate and I venture out to plod through the trails, creating the only footprints in the whole park, and listen to the violent clanging of the wind chimes, which ring out the only noise for miles except for the whipping wind. Later, with tea, I surprise myself by sidestepping a TV show in favor of a novel I’ve never read. A slower medium for a slower day.

The city can’t stop forever. Eventually the tracks of sled routes down hills will melt into grassy skids, the roads will no longer be terrifyingly unsafe, and eventually I will run out of hibernation cereal rations. But for one blissful extended weekend, I am exiled in my apartment, at the mercy of weather I have no control over, with permission from the universe to move through time at the speed of my own quiet and private existence.

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