It doesn't snow very often in Portland, Oregon. But when it does, I mean really snows, it locks everything down for a few days. Maybe it's just all the former Californians who can't drive in it or are too busy enjoying the sudden whiteness. If we get more than a few inches, as was the case last week, it will stick and totally put the city on hold. Schools close, most folks don't drive, the buses, complete with chains, handle most everyone's transportation needs, and the media goes off the deep end.
Even the Olympics or Nightly news can get preempted so that some reporter can go outdoors and stand in a few inches of snow and seriously report to us about what it looks like, what it feels like, and how long it might be around.
Some folks try to act like it's not snow and go about their business as usual. We find then in ditches with their cars, or walking around in shorts, or even unaware that public facilities and scheduled events have all been cancelled or closed down too.
I call it lucky snow. Lucky because it forces to stop and put everything on hold. We have the luxury of just hanging out, or reading the paper longer, or catching up on emails or even starting our income tax preparation. Of course with the Winter Olympics on TV and the snow and ice outside my door, it's all the more delightful and realistic.
In all my years teaching in the Bay Area I never had a snow day. We had something called Ski Week which was a holdover from the days when Bay Area folks who could afford to, went to Tahoe to ski in February. Now, they just sandwich in a couple of days with President's Day and call it a ski week.
But since I've been in Oregon, I've had a half dozen or so snow days that affected the student teachers I currently work with.
Eventually lucky snow, like all other types, turns to slush. It ceases to be soft and powdery and becomes crunchy dirt. Fortunately we have rain here. Lots of rain. In fact, as a friend of mine likes to say, the official policy of the city of Portland with regard to snow/slush disposal is to let the rain take care of it.
In the end, what is most satisfying, and a bit lucky as well, is the fact that our snow pack and rainfall totals have moved into the positive column. Not exactly where we want them to be, but getting there. All evidence indicates that we'll be able to stop using the "D word" fairly soon. By May, the rivers will be full of runoff and white water. The mountains and meadows will be deep green and sprinkled with lupin. This is why we live here. When the sky turns dark and they days are charcoal gray for endless hours, I simply recall the early days of summer and the long balmy nights of fall and feel lucky all over again.