Community Matters: Why a snowstorm reminds me of healthy community
I have always loved the snow.
I can recognize how that might be an unpopular opinion at present, given the events of recent weeks in Beaver County and around the country. So, let me get this out of the way at the outset and say that I realize that winter weather can have dramatic and even deadly consequences. I understand that there are times when things can get out of hand and turn into an actual emergency. Of course, I do not like that. But I do love a good old, run-of-the-mill, non-emergency-inducing snowfall.
Thinking back, I cannot remember a time where I did not look forward to winter. In fact, some of the fondest memories from my youth revolve around snow. Though I have not lived in my childhood home for nearly 25 years I can still vividly remember standing at our family room window and looking down on the intersection at the edge of our corner lot. There was an especially bright streetlight there, and by looking at it you could easily tell how hard it was snowing at any given moment. I spent many wintry evenings returning to that window again and again, trying to gauge whether we were likely to have an impending snow day.
Not surprisingly, many of my childhood memories about the winter involve playing in the snow. Whether it was an inch or a foot of accumulation, it was somehow enough to entertain an entire neighborhood of 40 kids for an indefinite period of time. We built forts, played football, had snowball fights and went sledding all day and well into the night. And we did it in cycles, meaning we would go outside and play until our snow gear was drenched to the point of actual freezing. Then we would come in the basement door and throw all our clothes in the dryer. I can still hear the clomping of boots and smell the mixture of snow and sweat heating up as they tumbled round and round, slowly toasting our snow pants till they were again ready to wear. When they were, we would head back out into the snow and start the cycle all over again.
I am in a phase of life where I am regularly asking myself why I think the things I do about matters that I have always taken as a given. And, maybe more to the point of this column, I have been thinking about how the issue of community life is tangled up in so many dispositions, preferences, judgments and assumptions that I have long taken for granted. Put just a bit differently, I have been giving myself space to think about why community matters when it comes to something as seemingly simple as my love of a good snowstorm.
When I think for a moment about why I love the snow, I quickly find myself staring at a constellation of issues that remind me of a time that was rich and deep and wide in community life. I love, for instance, how a good snowstorm gave all the kids in our neighborhood something to anticipate together. For however brief a time, we were singularly focused on the unknown and the future, anticipating an excitement toward which our collective hope was straining. I think, also, of how a good snowstorm brought our community together and slowed the world down for however brief a period of time. I was fortunate to grow up in a pretty nice neighborhood, but it was not without its blemishes. But, for a few short hours, just after the snow fell, everything looked equally beautiful and without flaw. Our neighborhood was, in that moment, a picture of undifferentiated beauty and promise. And, of course, a fresh snowfall had a way of generating a sense of peace and calm like nothing else quite could.
As I think about it more carefully, it is not at all surprising that I loved and continue to love the snow. For me, it hearkens back to a time teeming with robust community life, shrouded in beauty, and full of hope. I realize that it was not only the snow that made those things possible. But, in my story, at least, a good snowstorm was a perfect catalyst for bringing to life what was most noble and enriching about my childhood. And so, today, some 30 years later, I still cling to those memories and seek to create the conditions where they can be brought to life in the present.
I understand if you are fed up with the snow. But for me, I will take as much as I can get.
Daniel Rossi-Keen, Ph.D., is the co-owner of eQuip Books, a community bookstore in Aliquippa and the executive director of RiverWise, a nonprofit employing sustainable development practices to create a regional identity around the rivers of Beaver County. You can reach Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at https://www.timesonline.com.