In my wanderings around town the last couple of weeks, something that keeps catching my attention is the presence of large piles of leftover snow, many weeks after the substantial snowstorms. The obvious piles cannot be found everywhere, but where they can be found tells us something about the impact of storms and the long-lasting effects. I notice the snow piles at the edges of large parking lots and next to wide driveways, slowly melting away – but not yet gone. I have started thinking about these storm remnants in a new way – as physical evidence of storm memories.
When I consider all we have gone through together as a community over the past year, I am fascinated – in a melancholy sort of way – that the places impacted the most by the pandemic are also the places the snow piles stay longest. Schools, churches, shopping centers (many with a collection of hard-hit small businesses), movie theaters, and certainly the medical offices are where some of the biggest impacts have been. As I pass by and notice the remaining snow piles at the edges of their parking lots, I now take a moment and consider how the many lives of teachers, students, workers and patrons have been impacted. The storm of COVID-19 has not fully passed, so these piles are not simply memories, but indicators as well.
While most of the impacts to places with large parking lots have been heart-wrenching, some of the snow piles at home tell a different story. Next to our large driveway, the snow piles have not completely melted. As I watch them gradually disappear, I feel daily gratitude towards my husband for the many hours he has spent dedicated to clearing our sidewalks and driveway each day that it snows. Our oldest son is also learning to shovel snow – and gaining more appreciation for the hard work his Dad is doing. So many parents have been impacted by the storms of the pandemic in very intense ways – shifting to working from home to care for families in less-than-ideal conditions. Each parent deserves gratitude for their efforts and hard work, whether at home or at work in difficult circumstances.
On the happier side, I have seen many snow-free yards with remnants of family fun visible for a time after the storm has passed – snow people slowing changing shape but carrying memories of joy and laughter with them. In our yard, our 4-year-old pointed out for many days how the “waterfall” I had built her in the middle of the yard had not disappeared yet. I had spent a couple of hours building a pile as tall and smooth as I could get it, so that she could climb up and slide down. I did endure many of her critiques regarding how her vision and mine were not precisely the same for this snow waterfall (she was very frustrated I had not built “steps” correctly). But in the midst of her skepticism, there were shrieks of joy as I placed her on top and let her slide and tumble down to “test-drive” the waterfall. Ultimately, I was successful in meeting her exacting standards – or perhaps she lowered them to build my waning confidence in my snow sculpting abilities. Much joy from family time can sometimes be found in these storms.What can we do with these images besides remember? My perspective is that in addition to remembering those who are impacted so significantly, we should be proactive within the storms. Any who walk around town can immediately remember which sidewalks never get cleared. If we are in a position to clear those sidewalks, maybe we can put aside all our assumptions and clear them. We cannot clear every sidewalk, but if those who are able cleared one neighbor’s sidewalk, what a joy that would be! Throughout our community, there are many who struggle with physical and mental challenges that make “clearing our sidewalks” difficult – for a variety of reasons. May we have compassion, no matter the reason. May we help if we can. And as we notice the snow that remains, may we remember the long-lasting impacts and look inside ourselves to see if we can help.
Amanda Palmer is a doctoral student at the University of Idaho, who has been recently learning the joy of tromping through snow on Moscow Mountain. She has lived in Moscow with her family since 2012.