Yesterday is my 12-14 hour day: I have to get in and prep for the 2:30 undergraduate class, and then, in the three hours before the graduate class, finish prepping that in the cracks between student meetings and departmental meetings. The graduate class ends at 9:30 and if, for some reason, I am walking home, it is past ten when I get there, usually too spun up still from the class and the walk to sleep anytime soon.
But yesterday was weird. We were expecting snow in the later afternoon and through the night, 4-6″, or maybe it was 3-5″; maybe it would last all night? Maybe it would start at four? In fact, when it did start, at about 5:30 it was thick and fast and very slippery. Two or three of my graduate students come from Kansas City; one of them looked a little shaky when she got into the building: a mess out there, she said; not so bad yet but likely to suck by ten when she would leave. So, when the students filed in at seven, I asked how it was. Ugh, they said — and so I let class out very early, hoping that people would make it home slowly and carefully.
But I hadn’t driven, and I assumed the 1.7 mile walk would not have changed that much from eight to ten. This was time stolen from the universe, a gift for anyone with multiple jobs and too much to do. I prepped classes, read exercises, wrote critiques; and at 9:30, when class would have ended, I packed my computer into its bag, and myself into a very old black wool coat and a blue cashmere scarf, and prepared to walk home.
It’s nearly a full moon, so there was light behind the clouds. The snow was still heavy coming down. There had been four or five inches maybe? No traffic, and everything glowing with the street lights bouncing infinitely between cloud and ground, and the full moon backlighting the clouds. The sidewalks weren’t very trustworthy, so I walked down the middles of the silent streets. The snow-filled air and the ground were the same dim, luminous pearl color. The footing was not treacherous as long as I stayed in the new snow.
Four or five inches means that the food I had put out for the birds and squirrels was entirely hidden. When I got home at 10:30pm, I tossed my computer bag inside and stayed out side, because it was too eerie and beautiful to be inside yet. The snow on the sidewalk came up perfectly as I shovelled, leaving a long dark sharp-margined stripe of concrete. The patio, where I feed everyone, was matted with pawprints where they all had been digging to get to the seeds. I shook the snow out of the feeding trays and refilled them, poured out fresh food once I had scraped the space clear. And it was still too beautiful to be inside: but it was eleven, after a day that had started at eight. Time for gin, a warm bed, and a book.
But every time I do that, walk inside on a night like that, or walk away from a cherry-pink sunset, or square my shoulders and walk inside on a hot-winded July afternoon, I am a little saddened.