I’m from Minnesota. I remember when we had snow and cold winters. We don’t much anymore. One year, we got two 18 inch snowfalls a day apart, and then the weather turned really cold.
For the first week, people pretty much hunkered down. We knew it would end someday, so we just looked at this as a “snow day.”
Snow days are just that. Sort of like an impromptu vacation. You can’t do anything. You can’t go to the store or work. Traffic stops and the world turns quiet. Outside you might see someone trying to shovel out their car, but there is nowhere to go. Schools are closed. All the flights are canceled. Even the plows aren’t running.
I stand at the window looking out and watch big flakes fall silently into drifts, then go back to a fire, tea and the book I’m reading. Later, I take a nap. I get up and look out the window again. Then I check the weather report. And check it again an hour later. Then I walk around the house looking for things to do or clean or rearrange. I wash the dog’s bed. I call a few friends. Then I check the weather report again. Finally I go to bed.
The first thing I do in the morning is check the weather report. I’m not sure why? Maybe it gives me some sense of control. After breakfast, I go out to start my truck which is parked in the street. It’s really cold and doesn’t start. So I take the battery inside to warm it up. Then I do the old-timer’s trick of putting a tray of glowing coals under the oil pan. This is stupid. A lot of vehicles have been incinerated by this process. But I am desperate. The plows are coming the next day. Failure to move the truck will mean that it will be frozen in place until spring under a large ice block. There is the possibility that this is the beginning of a new glacial age and that my vehicle will only be discovered eons hence in the moraine of melting ice sheets.
While I’m back in the house tracking wet snow footprints on the floors, I decide that this has got to stop. Somebody has to do something about the weather. It’s unconscionable that we are held hostage to nature. I sit down to write a Letter to the Editor with my latest idea.
I propose that Minnesota adopt a system like daylight savings time, but apply it to the weather. I reason that if we added 10° to the thermometer in the winter that the cars would start better, the cows would give more milk and our energy bills would be reduced. Then I reason that we could take this energy savings and use it to cool our insufferable summers by taking 10° off the thermometer in the summer. This would keep the cows happier. I demand action from my legislature, place the letter on my bookcase and forget about it.
Outside again, I borrow a can of ether spray from a neighbor and try to locate the carburetor on my truck. I reinstall the battery, and give the carb a shot of ether. I remember the tray of coals and jump into a snowbank thinking they might ignite the spray. I wait 10 seconds and the vehicle does not explode. My hands are freezing as I turn the key in the ignition. Slowly the truck turns over, finally starting on some of its cylinders. It chugs for a while and dies. I wait for five minutes and try again. Finally success. I cheer. My manhood is preserved, and I have triumphed. Then I spend the next three hours shoveling a path to my garage.
Back inside I take off five layers of clothing and my boots. I go up and take a nap. It will be three more days before life returns to normal.
This snowstorm is nothing like the current COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is serious and deadly. The most import thing is life, health and safety. People come first. We will have to weather it together, but separately. We will have to take care of each other.
The economy is not a person. We sometimes confuse the two since we talk about it like it’s a person in the room. Yet it will be necessary to start the frozen economy. But our measures of success will need to change as well. We’ll need to consider our climate, our health, education and equity, and our happiness. We’ll need more fairness. We’ll need less greed by banks and oil companies and corporations. We’ll need to re-establish some better goals like 100% clean renewable energy, so we are not so dependent on Saudi oil or Exxon Mobile. We’ll need to work for the future of children demanding change to slow the climate crisis and preserve the earth.
We will have hindsight and second guess our decisions like not parking the truck in the garage in the first place. We will have to take in some batteries. Haul away old industries like fossil fuels that don’t work. We’ll have to put some coals under the economy and give it some shots of ether. It may or may not start until spring. We’ll even have to do some tricks like the temperature thing. Maybe a carbon tax. But it may take years and things are not going to be the same. Know that spring will come, and that others are thinking of you.
Stay safe and healthy.
‘We are all connected. Savor the Earth!’™
L. Hobart Stocking