Wednesday and Thursday went smoothly, just the typical first day of the semester: I went over the syllabus and attempted to convince all my students I was an unwavering hardass. A couple may have even bought it.
Thursday afternoon, I was reviewing the typical first “real day” lesson for my comp classes, a fun fifty-minute diatribe about the history of the word “essay,” its root in the French essai, and some talk about an old dead dude named Michel de Montaigne.
Midway through my refresher, I got the email ding, the text message, and the voicemail all in rapid succession. I didn’t even need to look. When that bit of synchronicity washes over in winter and/or tornado season, I know what it is: Lion Alert letting all students, faculty, and employees know that we’ll be taking the following day off.
There was a winter storm system moving our way. It did dump some frigid white dust on the area. Hell, at one point as I was walking my dogs on Friday, a boreal gust was blowing white flecks sideways into our faces. It was also well above freezing and not a damn bit stuck.
Three days into the new semester, and I’ve already lost a day of instruction in my Monday, Wednesday, Friday courses. Not a great loss; they’re all composition and I’ve built in days on the syllabus that simply read “Worshipping: TBD.” They’re good opportunities to hone in on a single point of composition, do exercises, and raise awareness about issues like word choice or sentence structure that don’t often get as much class time as they should.
It’s also no tragedy if they have to be cut.
“Alexa, is it going snow tomorrow?” I just asked the talking, pudgy coaster by my side.
“It might snow in Florence tomorrow,” said the disembodied, robotic, oddly sensuous voice. “There’s a 65% chance. You can expect up to 1.05 inches.”
In this corner of this Southern state, that’s enough to spark a manic run on grocery and liquor stores. I’m just awaiting the trifecta of email, text, voicemail Lion Alerts. It’s coming, I fear. [Author’s note: While writing this, the dreaded notification did indeed come.]
While most would celebrate an impromptu five-day weekend, all I can think about is time lost. Time I could be instructing my students, offering tidbits, doing what I love to do.
I also love to play in the snow, immediately becoming a five-year old when I plunge headlong into a drift. Problem is, in order to do so, it requires, well, actual snow.
If tomorrow at least brings that accumulation. If I can’t be standing in front of a world literature course and imparting the skills necessary for deep reading and analysis of a text (always the second day’s lessons), I want to be making snow angels, hurling snowballs at my wife, and watching our dog Penny spin in circles and dig trenches in the thrall of same wonder.
It’s not merely the aesthetics of a monochrome, winter-capped world, though those are stunning.
It’s the extra nip in the air, reminding us we’re alive. Funny how when that North Wind gets in my face on a snowless day, I curse it. Add a liberal white dusting to the ground, it’s invigorating.
It’s also the calm. Here in the South where we don’t get a lot of the stuff, the entire town shuts down. I live four blocks from a major highway, and day and night I can hear the rattles and moans of traffic from my front porch. Add an inch of snow, nothing but the hooting of a distant owl and the scratches of barren branches brushing one another in the breeze.
Serenity. Placidity. A stolen pause to the pablum humdrum of everyday existence.
Maybe it’s because I’ve lived my life in place where snow’s a rarity. Maybe I just appreciate the cycle of the seasons. Maybe I’ve got a strong strand of ancient humanity within me, a Wordsworthian “Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,” who celebrates the bleached, dead terrain and appreciates its upcoming verdant resurrection.
All I know is that in a world of steely-eyed rationalism and harsh, material tangibility, a wintry landscape brings an inexplicable hint of magic and wonder. It’s present in the kaleidoscope of autumnal foliage and the auspicious flair of the dogwood’s early spring blossoms, but even they don’t evoke the primal sense of natural awe.
Alexa better not be blowing smoke. The Lion Alert had better not be for naught. If I don’t wake up in the a.m., pull back the curtain and see this:
Well, me and Old Man Winter are going to have an uncomfortable discussion.
I pooh-poohed the threat last week. I knew we wouldn’t see any more flakes than a dude’s dandruff-laden noggin. But my snowy-sense is tingling. I have that same mutant power possessed by Lorelei Gilmore (Yes, I love that show!). There’s a spark in the atmosphere I haven’t felt in a couple of years.
I’m not an optimist. I seldom get my hopes up. But I have a feeling tomorrow will bring the biting, frigid kiss of flakes, ones that actually accumulate.
And if it doesn’t? If I have to cut Marguerite de Navarre from my syllabus in vain?
Ah well, life’s nothing but a series of disappointments anyway.
What’s one more?
[Author’s note: Old Man Winter got a thank you, not a tongue lashing, as evidenced below.]