There are several situations in life which, no matter the size of city they take place in, instill an instant sense of community with a dose of small town attitude on the side. One that comes to mind right away is the local farmer’s market. Saturday mornings turn into a gathering of like minds and happy individuals looking to support local farmers and entrepreneurs. The outdoor market atmosphere couples good food and pleasant conversation all the while giving much deserved credit to the hard work of fellow community members. It’s a true delight.
Another event that almost always gathers a community takes place in the aftermath of a major storm – in particular, a snow storm. Earlier this week my city, like many others throughout the Great Lakes area, was hit with an unprecedented amount of snow – or as my community has come to call it, “the big dump”. Eloquent, I know.
In less than a day we accumulated the same amount of snow we did over the majority of all last winter. It was one heck of a snowfall, 37 centimeters to be exact (or about 14.5 inches for those that require metric translation). I was one of the unlucky souls who HAD to go out during the thick of the storm as my work requirements beckoned. While the drive to work in the afternoon was slow and uneventful, the drive home was quite the opposite. Before even leaving work a communal mind-set shone through as co-workers banded together to help dig out half buried vehicles. Shovels were begged for, elbows were greased and the cold, hard work began without question or second thought. We self-organized and got to work, ensuring that everyone would get home safely – including texting upon our arrival into each of our driveways.
Following the big co-worker dig out, the drive home was treacherous to say the least. A normal fifteen minute drive took the better part of an hour – slow and steady wins the race, right? I’m happy to report that I made it home safely, however it was by a sheer miracle that I made it into my driveway. The snow was higher than tire height and the wind had caused major snow drifts. It was so bad that cars were literally getting stuck in the middle of the road. Two things got me home that night – my ridiculously large eighteen inched SUV tires and the work of one amazing individual who used their personal truck mounted plow to create a necessary, albeit narrow pathway down the middle of my street. It literally became my passageway to warmth and safety. (I should also express much appreciation from my small-bladdered dog as she was extremely happy that I was able to make it home as well!)
I slept soundly that night despite my motorized snow adventure. I woke the next morning to the sound of snow blowers and spinning car wheels – yet another car that didn’t quite make it around an icy corner patch. After changing into several layers I headed outside to join the melody of gas-powered blowers and heavy snow shovel resulting grunts. What transpired over the next few hours (yes, it took that long to dig my driveway out) was the way a neighbourhood came together. Initially it started as a simple wave across snow packed lawns that signaled the underlying acknowledgment of “holy shit, this is a lot of snow”. Then, as other neighbours joined in the great burrowing out, an entire street quickly came together to help their fellow man/woman get the job done. Those with snow blowers tackled the harder jobs while shovel laden volunteers banded together to scoop out driveways and walkways. Spirited hellos followed by comments regarding the big storm were mixed in with the work. Neighbours who rarely spoke to one other voluntarily helped without question or prompting. A city of several hundred thousand had literally come to a standstill forcing everyone to stay within their own neighbourhoods – perhaps a reminder from Mother Nature of the importance of community membership and support. The majority, thankfully, yielded to such a suggestion.
Once the work was finished, I brought my winter loving dog outside to play in the snow and enjoy the much welcomed sunshine. With smiles on both our faces, we played in the snow-packed wonderland – she pushing her nose through the white wonderfulness and me creating maze-like pathways in the backyard so that she could do her “business”.
While the first major snowstorm of 2015 paralyzed my city, what resulted was the inner warm feelings of neighbourly connections followed by the blissfulness of an afternoon filled with hot chocolate, puppy snuggles, and reading a great book by the fire. Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.
Snow days really are the best days. They force us to remember the importance of stopping and enjoying, simply because we have no other choice but to do so.
Thanks for looking out for us Mother Nature.