Snow Day

Eugene loves its snow days. A little white stuff on the ground and all work ceases. On snow days, workers and students don’t call in sick; they call in happy.

At first, I took Eugene’s flurry fascination as pure flakiness. Born and raised in Chicago, I was appalled. My boys’ first Eugene snow day was announced before we saw snow. The 4J school district called off school because a snow storm was forecast. Midwest empiricist that I was, I thought a snow day had one solid requirement: snow.

“Here is a town with a rich imagination,” I told myself.

Winter weather changed my plans first on a Sunday. My church’s phone tree was seldom used to convey urgent prayer concerns, but one Sunday the call came that there would be no church today — as if it was the answer to somebody’s prayer.

We took this silent Sunday as the perfect opportunity to try the brunch at The Glenwood. We walked down the middle of streets, because we could. Anyone driving seemed almost apologetic. We pretended to scold them for using our pedestrian roads on Opposite Day: “Why don’t they drive on the sidewalks, where they belong?”

We learned that other churches had canceled services that day. No souls would be saved, due to weather conditions. But at The Glenwood, there was a line out the door. This is how the National Public Radio crowd spends its Sundays, and more devoutly than most.

My cold derision was slowly melting away, like a pat of butter on a fresh Glenwood lemon poppyseed muffin. I slowly gained clarity (and charity) about Eugene’s willingness to celebrate undeclared holidays.

I could finally see this willingness not to work as a celebration of the rest of life. I instituted a policy that my company would accept no money on Halloween or on April Fools Day. We would come to work, but we wouldn’t work. I sent my salespeople out those days to give candy to our clients.

We’re not prepared for snow in Lane County. May it always be so. How much better is it to allow the weather to surprise us, to delight us, to give us a break from whatever we expected?

Let the rules be suspended, if only for a day. Let pedestrians take to the streets — not to protest, but to celebrate. Remove the vehicles and the speed of everyday life, add several inches of white cushioning, and anarchy-for-a-day seems a risk worth taking.

But pity the less fortunate who work from home — especially writers. They deserve the day off as much as anyone, which is to say that none of us deserve it, strictly speaking. But there’s nothing strict about a snow day. We’re all getting away with something.

So give writers a day to play, OK?

Readers underestimate the perils of writing, especially in close quarters. The dramatic arc can become treacherous — unsafe, even! There are days when we can’t make it up the exposition side. Steering toward a conclusion can sometimes throw logic overboard, careening down a slippery slope. A literary loop-back (repeating something at the end that also appeared at the beginning) can become a dangerous move if the writer loses control.

Downward spiral jumbles sentence slips gentle readers tangled web heads spinning. Dizziness can become its own reward.

yturiels,xmcnv yturiels,xmcnv yturiels,xmcnv [fingers on a keyboard making snow angels]

I’m sorry, but I can’t make it in today. Conditions being what they are, I won’t be able to write a column about anything that matters. Today I’m calling in happy.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) works from home and often writes his Friday columns in his stocking feet. He blogs here, where readers can find this and all previous columns.