I’ve never been to Hawaii before. My in-laws live there, so we have a standing invite. In October, my husband and I picked up bargain flights departing from Oakland, Calif. We’d no clue then that this would be the snowiest winter in nine decades.
Early in the week, we knew we wouldn’t be driving over the pass. And I didn’t want to leave my teenagers stranded at home during the storms.
We’ll go to Hawaii in May.
I stayed home another weekend, let late fees accrue on my DVD rentals and finished Tom Wolfe’s new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons.
Staying put is a struggle for me. There are morning and afternoon commutes and assorted trips to the store for toothpaste and milk, the bank, lunch with friends, a bookstore. The more hectic my life, the more valid, as if flurry equals substance.
When the motion stops, gaps surface.
Holing up at home isn’t all bad, I deduced, as long it comes with high-speed Internet access. I could work here—writing and teaching, maybe Web-based classes. Have groceries delivered. Order movies from Netflix. Stay busy.
I spent two days preparing to be snowed in.
After much searching for a manual instrument of snow removal, we discovered that Lowe’s had practically the only shovels for sale in Northern Nevada. Boxes of shovels. Ours was a steal at only $29.99.
At WinCo, I loaded a cart with more than $200 worth of milk, eggs, tortillas and canned goods, in case we ended up stranded for weeks.
I didn’t buy bottled water or candles because, well, I think I have some left over from Y2K. Can you believe it’s been half a decade since the world’s end?
At our house, about 25 inches fell Saturday. Neighbors shoveled and chatted.
On Sunday, as the snowmelt dripped from our roof, my teens and I went sledding on a steep hill owned by the developers of our subdivision. For two years, we’ve hiked the slope, thinking what extreme sledding terrain it would make. We never thought we’d get enough snow. With the pending development of hundreds of new homes, we’ll likely never have the chance again.
We trudged up the hill like Arctic explorers, sinking to our thighs every third step. Our two lab-mix mutts broke an eclectic trail in front of us.
As our sleds zipped down into sluggishly deep snow, the dogs chased after us.
Exhausted from one last climb up the hill, I sat back on my sled, absorbing the view of my home at the end of our snowy cul-de-sac and, beyond it, the breathtaking backdrop of Peavine Mountain and Mount Rose.
I felt that mysterious thing that nature writers call “a sense of place,” along with the realization that I’d spent far too much time racing through life, anticipating future thrills as if this moment wasn’t lovely enough.
“The man who often thinks it is better to be somewhere else than where he is excommunicates himself,” Thoreau wrote, as quoted by Scott Russell Sanders in the book Staying Put.
“In belonging to a landscape, one feels a rightness, at-homeness, a knitting of self and world,” Sanders writes. “This condition of clarity and focus, this being fully present, is akin to what the Buddhists call mindfulness, what Christian contemplatives refer to as recollection. … There is only one world, and we participate in it here and now.”
I pushed off down the hill, my dogs lunging after me.
Later, my husband received an e-mail from his mom in Kona, who was glad we’d postponed our trip.
“It’s 65 degrees here,” she wrote. “I’m wearing sweatpants. It’s cold.”