Snowing in Seattle.....

I can’t remember the last time we all had NOTHING to do the entire weekend! And now, with schools closed Monday and possibly Tuesday too, more time to “do nothing”! Yay! 😀
Re-discovering my ability to sleep well at night AND nap for a couple of hours (!) in the afternoons!

I was one of those who scoffed about snow in Seattle. I’ve lived in the mid-west for over a decade, you see. In fact, it was a cold, snowy evening in early January two decades ago when I first landed in the USA. I reached St.Louis, Missouri sometime at around 8.30 pm. Ours was the last flight as all others after that had been cancelled. As my local host drove me out of the airport to his home in Chesterfield, I marveled at all the snow around. I had traveled from Madras, where our weather, according a famous writer R.K.Narayan (whom we’d like to claim as ours) is “hot, hotter and hottest”. For a brief period from mid-Dec to mid-Jan, there’s a mild respite from the heat. A few crumbs thrown which makes you almost believe that Madras isn’t so bad after all.

The next morning, when I woke up from the deep sleep that only jet lag can bring, I couldn’t take my eyes off the window- ooh, the postcard perfect white, scenic terrain was so ethereal!
It was only when I stepped outside that I discovered that I could barely walk without slipping; that my skin felt like it was beginning to burn; that my nose began to bleed a bit, not having had any exposure to these temperatures, ever, etc. This wasn’t so much fun. When I called my parents to tell them I had reached and was going to the university in a couple of days, I only mentioned the postcard perfect scenery, though. 🙂
Dr.Swamy (of the Physics department, where I was going to) and his wife picked me up from Chesterfield and we all drove to Edwardsville. I remember that first drive (the ride from the airport was at night and I was tired and groggy), which was eerily quiet (where are all the pedestrians?! Why doesn’t anyone honk on the roads?!). As the horizon appeared to grow larger, the swathes of white grew larger too and once again, I marveled at the expansive snowy land surrounding me.

Back then, I was a morning person. I remember many mornings when I’d wake up by 4.45 and head out at 5.00 am along with my dad, for 6-8 km walking/jogging. During summer vacation, I’d come back and nap! 🙂
But here in Edwardsville, waking up seemed nearly impossible! All I wanted to do was to curl up in my new comforter (I had never needed a blanket or a sweater in my life so far!). Had it not been for that 9.00 am class that semester, I have no idea when I’d have woken up every day! Also, I discovered there were some fun aerobics classes at the student gym at 6.00 am on M, W, F and some step aerobics on T, Th at 6.30 am. These morning classes had very few students showing up. After all, it was out in the middle-of-nowhere we are talking about. (Edwardsville, Illinois; about 30 miles east of St.Louis, Missouri). There were 3 or 4 of us “regulars” who attended these sessions. On mornings when I’d consider skipping a session (which I knew I’d regret later), I’d imagine I was the instructor and it seemed to work. 😀

A few weeks after settling in, sometime in mid-Feb I think, at the end of yet another class where I could barely decipher the squiggles on the blackboard (this one was the Electricity and Magnetism class; the troublesome one for me was the quantum mechanics class which made me wonder how and why I ever fell in love with Physics), I raised my hand to ask a question. “This is not about what you just now spoke”, I said (“of which I understand nothing”, I muttered softly).
“Yes?” said the professor, waiting for me to continue.
“When will the sky turn blue?”.
The professor seemed a bit puzzled and he looked at the other students, as if to confirm that he had heard my question correctly.
“You see, I come from a place where I’ve always seen nothing but the BLUE sky every day of every year! And here......I feel like I’m trapped in this giant, grey, gloomy sphere! And it’s also so very cold!”. I hadn’t realized how much the weather was affecting me.

A few winters, running in Forest Park in 20 deg F weather, (~ -6 deg C), I had made my peace with the winter. A true Madrasi like me, who had never seen nor felt any temperature lower than 23 deg C (~ 75 deg F?) was now comfortable in 23 deg F weather. Thankfully I was younger, then, and survived! Both physically and mentally.

And then we moved here. Back to that giant, grey, gloomy sphere! At least it isn’t so cold, I reminded myself. It snowed that first year when we moved and that’s when I realized how different it is here! The mid-west is FLAT. It really is! I’ve driven from St.Louis to Chicago many, many times. Corn field after corn field all on absolutely flat land, all along the 300 miles. I’d start off listening to some Carnatic classical alapana, then inspired by that, would go on to sing my own alapana, kriti, neraval and kalpana swaram during the drive. But the scenic 🙄 drive would make me sleepy and I’d turn to Bhangra music to keep me awake and alert!

Just a bit of snow and we were marooned in our home. Our driveway itself was very steep and there was no way we could drive out or into our garage.
Then a couple of years ago, one Sunday evening, I left home to present a short talk at the Redmond library. I did see the forecast of snow but it was barely a couple of inches later that evening. I was sure I’d be back home in spite of the snow. We had moved to a different house now. 🙂 After the talk and the question answer session, I glanced at my phone and saw a message from H: “Please fall when you see this message; I don’t think you can drive back home”. Huh? It had started snowing and quite some had accumulated. I ended up having to park my car about 3 miles away from home and H had to affix chains on the tires of our other car and drive out to pick me up.
With that experience behind me, this time I’ve been very reverential towards the snow. Not in carving out a desi snow-woman (as my friend Ranjani Mysore has or in creating a snow Shiva linga as my friend Rama Ramamani Keeran did) but in paying more attention and being aware that driving in the snow in Seattle is not simple. I picked up my daughter from
school earlier than their dismissal time as I have lingering memories of my car attempting to go up some of the hilly roads in the vicinity.

And once again, two decades after seeing snow for the first time, once again I marvel at the postcard perfect beautiful scenery that pops up every morning and evening, bringing myriad patterns in the snowy landscape, in the distance where the sky and the mountains seem to merge, where the clouds appear to caress and kiss the Olympic mountains........grateful to be able to view it all from the warmth and comfort of my home.