Misplaced Norm

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

December 23, 2008


Categories: The Balancing Act

See how high the snow comes up to our compost bin.  The bin measures about 3 feet off the ground.

See how high the snow comes up to our compost bin. The bin measures about 3 feet off the ground.

Living in Portland has allowed me to become accustomed to Green Christmases.  The first year I was here, it was so odd, seeing sparse Christmas lights reflected on a green backdrop of evergreens and grass.  The week after Christmas, we got snow.  It was like being home in Michigan again.  I realized why I like a White Christmas, if only for the aesthetics. Brilliant lights hung diligently on houses, now made more beautiful as they are reflected against a white backdrop.

A few more Christmases came and passed, and now I find myself used to the Green Christmas and black asphalt.  I have vague memories of driving in snow, cars stuck, and tires spinning out.  I am now more used to driving on damp pavement, braving rain, and tolerating the typical Portland mist that is so frequent this time of year. I have also noticed that every year the local meteorologists predict some type of snow storm.  Every year, at some point, it seems we get at least a dusting that shuts Portland down for a day or two.  Every year it comes when the meteorologists predict something normal, like rain.

So, I was quite skeptical this year when the reports began the week of Peter’s birthday, broadcasting loudly, “Beware! The Arctic Blast is Near!” Meetings that were planned were put on hold in light of this new forecast.  I scoffed it, and so did Peter.

But, on Sunday, December 14th, Portland became snow covered again.  Before Christmas, even.  And, this year, my excitement was slim.  The first year I was here in Portland (in 2003/2004 when the airport shut down for nearly a week), I was ecstatic!  I was so close to Michigan, still longing for a true White Christmas.  I was a little mystified and sad when my first Christmas in Portland sported a balmy 50 degrees.  And, now I’ve grown accustomed to it, so when we do get snow, it’s a little disappointing.

I was born in the U.P. of Michigan.  I have a memory of snow so high it was higher than the doors going outside.  My Uncle Steve had to dig a tunnel so that people could get to the barn at my Grandparent’s home.  (My mother says it couldn’t be a true memory rather a photograph of an event years before I was born.) Although I don’t like driving in the snow, I can.  I moved to Portland for balmier winters where I could still bundle up.  Snow, though, is in my bones. So, when I see this snow, it’s like, “So what?” We have snow.  It’s a bit odd since we don’t own a snow shovel, only a dirt shovel. The snow will be gone soon, and less than half shovel their walks. The threat of a lawsuit for having an unshoveled sidewalk doesn’t feel as strong as it would in Michigan.  And, here, everything is ice and hardly anyone uses salt.  They don’t even salt the roads.

So, I feel passive about this winter storm, this Arctic Blast. It’s something I am used to, but I am in a sea of people who accept not being prepared for snowy weather. It’s an extended vacation of sorts (although I don’t have a normal day job). The schools have been closed now for a week and a half. Businesses are closed. My husband still works though, as he punches a clock for the local transit authority. So, that too is normal, going to work in the snow. We’ve been measuring the snow through photographs. And, this time, it seems important to let Mother Nature take over and just enjoy what you can, relax, take a breath, and don’t rush. The Road Commission isn’t plowing our road anyway. So, sit back and enjoy this misplaced norm.


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