In Britain, we have a strange custom known as “snow days”. Since we have snow so rarely, we are entirely unprepared. Once every few years, we have enough snow to make the roads treacherous, the trains unreliable and for the schools to close (since the teachers can’t get to work). The snow rarely lasts more than a coupe of days, but while it does, it dominates the national conversation and throws everything into chaos. We do not have four wheel drive, snow chains in our cars or grit on every steep hill. There are not enough snow ploughs to clear every road and railway line. Offices are quiet and people go out to play instead.
This year, my son had snow on his birthday for the first time, and it brought the unexpected gift of two days off school. He, his brother, and their friends, took the their sledges to the nearest steep hill and spent happy mornings racing down the hill before coming home wet and cold for hot chocolate. It was the best birthday present of all.
Meanwhile, I had two days of important back-to-back meetings planned, and a rare opportunity for a a Christmas meal with my colleagues from around Wales, which I was really looking forward too. I was determined not to give up on my plans. My car was buried in snow, and there is a steep hill at the end of our road, so I opted to take the train. I arrived at the station to find no trains were running, since a tree was down over the line. Fortunately the train from the opposite direction turned around, and I got to my first meeting. My colleague was not so lucky – she did not arrive until mid-afternoon. After the meeting, I headed to the station for my onward journey, stepping with care since the pavements were so icy. The delayed afternoon trains were still showing as not arrived, which did not fill me with confidence. With much reluctance, I gave up on my social event, and felt lucky to make it home. The closest I got to my meal was a running commentary of everyone’s journeys on Whats App.
The next day, I Skyped into my meeting – a lesson learnt.
So, what do snow days have to teach us?
- Non-attachment – on a snow day, it doesn’t pay to be too attached to your plans. You need to be willing to let go of them gracefully.
- Compassion and connection – people say hello to each other and help each other out. People check on their neighbours, they talk to each other about transport delays, they help each other clear the snow from the pavements, they smile in the street. Everyone seems friendlier.
- See the world with fresh eyes – everything looks different in the snow. You can take time to see how things are right now in the present moment, rather than carry out your journey on auto-pilot.
- Remember how to play – build a snow man, go sledging, have a snowball fight!
- Think flexibly – is there another way of connecting to people? Do you really need to travel? Could you try working from home?
- Enjoy some welcome rest – if you end up staying home because the kids are off school or you cannot get to work, make the most of the time by snuggling up and getting cosy. This is a time of year when we could usually use a bit of extra time to relax and refresh ourselves.
- Gratitude! Having to do without a few things can help us appreciate what we do have – all those days when we have access to good transport, electricity, warmth, childcare, simple routines.