As a lifelong New Englander, I ought be used to snow. Snow is a fact of life here, an unwelcome guest every winter. When I was a child, snow was magic. When I was a young mother, snow was an occasion to send my child outside and delight in his reaction as he found many ways to play with it. But now, snow has become a hindrance to life, a hassle, a threat to health, especially when we just received 76 inches of the stuff with more on the way.

I just went outside to clear out my car (having no driveway, we park on the street) which was yet again hemmed in by the plows and covered with at least a foot of snow. Unlike in previous storms, removing the snow was almost impossible because of the height of the snow piles in the yard. I literally couldn’t throw the stuff high enough to keep it from sliding down again back onto the sidewalk. Fortunately, a neighbor with a snow blower came over and told me to push the snow down from the car onto the street and sidewalk. He then used the blower to throw it on top of the piles.

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Across the street, other neighbors had snow piles up almost to the top of their porch.

 

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All of this snow got me thinking about the things we take for granted in everyday life. Most of the year, if we’re in good health and live in a developed country, we don’t have to think about our ability to move around in the world. We don’t have to plan in advance if we want to leave the house or make an every day excursion. If we live in a city, we don’t have to think about the ability to drive on the roads or take public transportation, assuming instead that the roads will be plowed in the winter, the potholes fixed in the summer, and the trains and buses will be running. Only when all public transportation is shut down, as it is today in Boston, or when the governor issues a driving ban do we realize that the freedom of movement we take for granted is not necessarily always there.

All of this snow, and the temporary inconveniences it has caused me, got me thinking about what it’s like to live in a war zone, where excursions outside have to be carefully timed and are often taken with a risk to one’s life. I recently watched a film, Zatoun, set in Beirut in 1982. In it, there were many scenes of people trying to go about their everyday lives despite rocket attacks and internecine fighting among the city’s militias. I also read a story from my local NPR station, A Blizzard in Perspective, about a young mother who works in the food service industry. Unlike many middle class people who can work from home, she has to go to work every day no matter what the weather, taking multiple buses in order to drop off her three-year old with her mother before setting off for her job. Then she has to repeat the process in reverse, sometimes not getting home until 1 a.m. Both this film and the news story made me realize how lucky I am, despite 76 inches of snow, to live in a warm house, have good neighbors and the resources to pay someone else to shovel if the snow gets too much, and a life that allows for many choices. So, I guess it was good that we got enough snow to slow life down and allow some time for reflection and perspective.

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