Sunday, January 16, 2011

Freeze Frame

5:07 AM on the morning of the snowfall
It snowed in Atlanta last Sunday. Actually, it didn't just snow, but rather it snowed and snowed and stayed. We rarely have enough snow accumulation to amount to much of anything, but this was an exception. Some of the snow that fell last Sunday night is still on the ground today, one week later. What the snow created was a kind of alternate universe.

Being house bound is not really my style, but in this case, there wasn't a choice; besides, a fierce winter cold had taken hold of me, so I was effectively down for the count anyway. Having lived in the North, I've been socked in by some bad weather before, but here in the South, it's a bit more of a radical departure from the norm. The city of Atlanta and its suburbs have almost no snow removal equipment, so basically, what happens is that the snow and ice just sit there until they have melted, which in this case has taken days.

It's not like we didn't know that the storm was coming, because nowadays, meteorologists can forecast the arrival time of the next mosquito swarm -- but that didn't seem to help too much. Grocery stores ran out of milk, bread, and from my observation, chicken. Businesses either shut down or instructed their employees to work from home. Schools were closed all week, which wreaked havoc with the schedule and will probably necessitate extensions of the school year into June. In some cases, even emergency vehicles could not reach their intended destinations.

But the other side of the coin was that we got to see our city in a whole new light, that of true white winter. It was amazing to see how an ordinary field off the side of a major commuter road could be suddenly transformed into a Currier and Ives scene, or how complete strangers could run into each other and swap snow stories. One morning, I actually was asked to witness the notarizing of closing documents for a woman whom I'd never met. She and her husband were moving to Florida, and she had brought her closing papers to the UPS Store to be notarized. Since I was the only other person to have successfully navigated my way to the store that morning, she recruited me as a witness, and I was happy to oblige.

All this makes me wonder what it takes for us to gain a new perspective on the familiar. This one week was special, because we saw things that we don't normally see. It makes me think that maybe we need to look a bit harder at the daily space, maybe stop every once in a while and freeze frame what we're seeing so that we can remember it later when it's a novelty. I'm watching this last snow disappear with a tinge of sadness, but I hope that in July, I can invoke the image of a frozen white winter as I'm stepping into my 100-plus degree car. Perhaps then I can remember that there's really beauty around us all the time...sometimes it just takes a fresh, new perspective to make it truly visible.