Snowed-in is a time to rest and reset

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jan. 29, 2009

Dear Julie,

Snowed-in is a state of mind. Nothing is to be done, nowhere is to be gone. It's reason for hot chocolate with marshmallows even if you stay inside. It's the comfort of stews and chili, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It's drinking pot upon pot of tea or coffee and simply staring out a window into the whiteness.

It's watching "Caddyshack" for the 200th time and hoping "Groundhog Day" will be on TV, too. Some meteorological yin and yang. You do hope "The Shining" isn't scheduled.

Snowed-in is briefly wondering if you shouldn't do something productive and then watching another movie. This kind of peace is rare in 21st-century America, a glistening gift.

In "The Heart's Code," psychoneuroimmunologist Paul Pearsall presents a 25-question test he gives heart patients to help them recognize how they are living their lives. It asks questions like, "Are you so busy that others are afraid to 'bother you'?" and "Do you react emotionally, negatively and defensively to criticism?" The questions are answered on a scale of 1 to 4. In his sampling of 1,000 patients, the average score was 66 points out of 100. During a trip to Polynesia he offered the test to a smaller sample. The average score was 8.

Pearsall says this shows how our brains abuse our bodies and our hearts just doing the things we accept as normal everyday life.

After she finished teaching 60 miles from home, DC had to drive along two-lane highways into the snowstorm Monday night. She called at the halfway point to see if we needed any groceries. An hour later she still hadn't arrived home and her cell phone didn't pick up. I began worrying, imagining her off in a ditch somewhere.

When DC did arrive home two hours after setting out it turned out her cell phone wasn't working, that she'd called me from a pay phone, and that she'd had to drive slowly the rest of the way. She was scared. Both of us needed a hug.

Practically the whole city and region took snow days Tuesday and Wednesday. The university closed along with all the public and private schools. Students barreled down the terraces on sleds and garbage can lids as sleet fell at the university Tuesday afternoon.

Some people have no power in the region, and their snow days have been very different from ours. My friend Carolyn has heat in icy Paducah, Ky., but intermittent electrical service. Fallen limbs littered her backyard. She was settling in for a long Tuesday night with a bottle of wine, a gigantic cookie and a book.

Here the snapping of limbs began deep into Tuesday night, sounding like muffled gunshots. A snowplow reassuringly worked its way up William Street. DC was downstairs, probably watching the Weather Channel.

Wednesday we awoke to a sunny Vermont postcard with trees and streets coated with both ice and snow. DC and Hank and Lucy were already gone for a long winter's walk.

Most everyone probably will get back to work today better for the pause. Snowed-in is for regrouping, resetting, stopping your whirlwind for a day or two and remembering what matters to you.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is a former reporter for the Southeast Missourian.

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