There’s a storm coming. No one around here needs to turn on the news to know this, though if they would, they’d be greeted with an unending stream of weather updates and projected snowfall totals. “Gonna be a bad one, folks,” the weatherman said a bit ago. But I knew that when I walked outside. It was the way the sun hung low in a heavy, gray sky, and how the crows and cardinals and mockingbirds sounded more panicked than joyful. It was the five deer coming out of the woods and the raccoon in the backyard, how they foraged for enough food to last them these next few days.
We are no strangers to winter storms here. Still, it is cause for some interesting scenes. There are runs on bread and milk, of course, and salt and shovels, and there must be kerosene for the lamps and wood for the fire and refills for whatever medications, an endless stream of comings and goings, stores filled with chatter—“Foot and a half, I hear,” “Already coming down in Lexington”—children flushing ice cubes and wearing their pajamas inside out as offerings to the snow gods.
It is February now. The Virginia mountains have suffered right along with the rest of the country these past months. We’ve shivered and shook and dug out, cursed the very snow gods that our children entreat to give them another day away from school. Winter is a wearying time. It gets in your bones and settles there, robbing the memory of the way green grass feels on bare feet and the sweet summer smell of honeysuckled breezes. It’s spring we want, always that. It’s fresh life rising up from what we thought was barren ground. It’s early sun and late moon. It’s the reminder that nothing is ever settled and everything is always changing.
But there’s this as well—buried beneath the scowls of having to freeze and shovel, everywhere I go is awash with an almost palpable sense of excitement. Because, you see, a storm is coming. It’s bearing down even now, gonna be a bad one, folks, I hear a foot and a half, and it may or may not already be coming down in Lexington.
We understand that sixteen inches of snow will be an inconvenience. We know the next day or two will interrupt the otherwise bedrock routine we follow every Monday through Friday. And yet a part of us always welcomes interruptions such as these, precisely because that’s what they do. They interrupt. They bring our busy world to a halt. They slow us down and let us live.
Come Tuesday morning, I expect to see a world bathed in white off my front porch. I expect to put aside work and worry and play instead. I’ll build a snowman and a fort. I’ll throw snowballs and play snow football and eat snowcream. I’ll put two feet so cold they’ve gone blue by the fire and sip hot chocolate. I’ll laugh and sigh and ponder and be thankful. For a single day, I’ll be my better self.
That’s the thing about storms. We seldom welcome them, sometimes even fear them. Too often, we pray for God to keep them away. Yet they will come anyway, and to us all. For that, I am thankful. Because those storms we face wake us up from the drowse that too often falls over our souls, dimming them to a dull glow, slowly wiping away the bright shine they are meant to have.