This morning, even in the dark, we're aboard a ship on a sea of white. A mini-storm roared through earlier this winter, but something of a little big one is here with us now, turning the whole world outside our windows into a great white quilt. It's beautiful, really. But then, I don't have to clear a path to the barn, nor even clean a sidewalk. I've got a grain scoop I never use anymore. This blizzard won't bother me a bit.
Schools were called already last night. A huge banner headline greets you when you visit the web page of the school our grandkids' attend. What's outside throws a fit for thousands of parents, I'm sure, who have to determine what to do with children sentenced suddenly to what may well be, by noon, a roaring case of cabin fever. That "no school" headline down there at the bottom of the page was up already last night, my wife told me, so this morning, I'm sure, most plans have been laid. In a way, that's too bad.
Listening for radio announcements on stormy days has to rank as one of the most wonderful moments of anybody's upper Midwest childhood. You're curled up in bed, pillow perfectly bunched, and the radio's on. Some dj's familiar voice is going through a sprawling list of schools canceled, and when you hear it--"no school at Oostburg Public; no school at Oostburg Christian," no word or phrase could signal anything so sublime.
Not even my wonderfully pious parents ever brought it up, because no adult, I suppose, ever figured it was true; but if grace is love totally unmerited, then that moment--radio on, the holy words just spoken--that bedside ritual may well have been the most vivid foretaste a kid ever experienced of divine grace, something of a sacrament really.
You didn't have to hate school to lie there in bed and feel the warmth spread down and through the very chambers of your heart.
I've spent most all of seventy years as a morning person. Right now, it's not long after six. But that particular delight--hearing your school announced, then turning over in a warm bed on a snowy day--that particular joy is a memory whose song is more charming than a whole host of other wonderful childhood melodies. No school amid the storm. Even a morning person stayed in bed.
When I was a teacher in a small Wisconsin high school years ago, something of all of that still thrilled me. But back then snow days were mixed bag because the plan for the week, for the unit, even for the month, could be swept away amid the drifts. At least part of the morning I'd have to sit down and try to figure out how to make up for what was being lost.
Ah, small potatoes. I was still a kid. The truth is, back then, at home in the ancient trailer I rented (inside, you could see wind gusts in the flame of a candle), it was a still a joy to get a snowy reprieve from unrelenting northwest wind.
Today, a half-century later, blessedly retired, it doesn't matter a bit if there's some whale-like drift between the retaining walls just outside the door down here or another, beached across the driveway out front. Whatever's out there can stay. I don't have to fight it, and whether or not it's there makes no difference. I'm down here at the desk, just like any other day, and right now there's no radio playing.
But I can't help but smile because this morning, somewhere out here in the middle of the prairie, somewhere in Siouxland, some kid and his siblings are waking up to a radio announcement, then fluffing the pillow, turning over, and thinking seriously about going back to sleep, lost, as Emerson said, in the blessedness, the "tumultuous privacy" of storm.