Sure, it looks magical, enchanting even, as the snow glides through the streetlights and dances past your window. Snow isn’t all that bad when you are warm behind the walls of your apartment.But then you go outside and try to make your way through the streets that may or may not have been plowed and see the ugly, slushy truth.[flickr id=”11710160035″ thumbnail=”medium_640″ overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]When the first snow fell this year, I felt like a child. I hadn’t experienced a real, snowy winter in a number of years, having spent the better part of the past decade in Central Florida. Memories of playing in the snow, watching it cover the world in a blanket of white came flooding back. I was swimming in idealized nostalgia.
Then I was slammed with the cold: wrapping my face up to walk down the street, losing feeling in my fingertips and toes. Tracking dirty water inside buildings. Salt crusted boots.
So why am I even here (in what many Chicagoans would describe as the worst part of the year) when I could be with my friends and family back in Florida?
I’m not going to lie, some mornings I wake up freezing and wonder why I decided to stay here for all of winter break, but I remind myself why I’m here in the first place. I know there is a lot of focus on the many social aspects of living in the city and going to grad school, but I want to argue a case for some self-imposed solitude.[flickr id=”11710755606″ thumbnail=”medium_640″ overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone, but being a natural introvert, the non-stop social stimulation of an active semester is a double-edged sword. I am incredibly lucky that every time I go to campus I can engage in a stimulating, thought-provoking conversation about books, essay, authors, or writing, but sometimes the lack of time to focus on the self and reflection (beyond that done in personal essays) is limited—I am either reading or writing for class, working, or in those small moments before classes, still talking about the topics at hand in the classroom. During the semester, I strangely relish the time I take commuting. While riding the bus or the train can be a great opportunity to get some extra work in, there is also something very meditative about traveling across the city, a passenger that does not control the stops.
Walking to and from the bus or train station, I often write in my head. I look at the way the light hits the buildings, the way the sky glows orange from the streetlights. These are some of my favorite moments of my day.
I am in love with this green earth; the face of town and country; the unspeakable rural solitudes, and the sweet security of the streets .
-Charles Lamb, New Year’s Eve”
Lamb writes in his essay, which mourns the passing of the year, that “every man hath two birth-days,” the actual anniversary of his birth and New Years Day. There is something chillingly mortal about a northern winter, reminding us how fragile we are against the cold in the same way the passing of another year serves as reminder that we cannot stop the passage of time. What better time for reflection? After a semester full of so much social stimulation, so much rushing to and from downtown every day, I am grateful for the time I get to spend holed up in my apartment with my books and my tea, watching the snow fall.
And according to the weather forecasts, there will be no shortage of snow in the coming days.