Thursday, January 20, 2011

The brightness of a gray January day

What a luxury it was to be at home by myself yesterday, writing, catching up on deskwork, looking out at the steel gray sky.

I was away for all of last weekend; it was natural that when I returned from my two-day trip, the kids and I wanted to spend as much time together as we could. Monday was a holiday; we spent the day playing games, organizing the house, sledding, baking.

On Tuesday, an early morning snowfall, combined with a forecast for rain and sleet later in the day plus the fact that it was scheduled already to be an early-release day for the kids, resulted in a snow day. And I have to admit I was a little surprised by my reaction when the automated voicemail came in on my cell phone at 6:15 a.m. announcing the school cancellation. Somehow we’ve passed those earlier parenting days when unexpectedly having the kids home from school caused me to worry about all the work I’d fall behind on; yesterday upon realizing they’d be home all day I acknowledged a little twinge of delight, because snow days are fun these days: we play, we sled, and I manage to get my work done.

Toward mid-afternoon, the power went out for several hours. After dinner at our local pizza parlor, we layered on sweaters and sweatshirts, gathered candles and all played Uno together in the warmest part of the house, then cheered when the lights went back on.

Still, it was a joy to have the tide turn yet again yesterday morning, as the house emptied out, with Rick off to work and both kids safely packed onto the bus. I sat in an empty house for the first time in five days, happy to have hours spread out ahead of me for focusing on writing, desk work, replying to an accumulation of email correspondence, and sketching out some plans for work yet to come.

Yesterday had neither the awesome beauty of the previous day’s snowstorm, with its fast-falling curtain of feathery snowflakes, nor the brilliant blue-skied splendor of the chilly but sunny day preceding the storm. Yesterday was quintessential January, with a dull gray sky and temperatures just a shade above freezing resulting in a scrim of sleety drizzle falling all day, making the snow crusty rather than feathery and the tree trunks wet and brown instead of white.

I felt nothing else so much as grateful for the quiet that pervaded the house, for the heat that coursed out of the vents at regular intervals warming the air around me, for the bright lights of the kitchen shining down on my keyboard, for the clean running water as I washed the dishes. Snow days, Monday holidays, even power outages all have a romantic aspect. Anything out of the norm that lets us break the usual routine and spend extra leisure time together does. But there are days when nothing beats normalcy, and yesterday was one of those days. I was very happy to be at home writing about winter while winter coursed on just outside my well-sealed windows. In another couple of months, this weather will seem dreary – the crusty grayish snow, the soggy melting, the colorless sky – but right now it just says January, with its quiet meditative mystique. And yesterday, I welcomed it all.

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