When the snow is on the . . . cactus

Day Three of Snowjam2011 in Atlanta.  People are venturing out, many out of cabin fever, and promptly slipping on the ice.  The layer of ice on top of the snow is thick enough to keep one simply skating on the top rather than crunching through, thanks to our low-teens temperatures last night.  Similar temps are predicted for tonight.  Major thoroughfares are passable but lumps and spots of ice still linger even on the most traveled streets - even the interstates continue to have on/off ramps closed and there have been innumerable accidents, some blocking all lanes for hours.

Today we went out walking (I did a lot of slipping but no falling, I am happy to report) and then rode home in the car.  Neither was easy.  My husband and son went out as soon as we got home and shoveled the walk in front of the house as well as clearing more of the driveway to give some purchase to those feet venturing by with their dogs and/or children.

According to Facebook, many friends are taking the opportunity to clean out closets, cook comfort food, shovel neighbors' walks, catch up on reading and writing and checkbook balancing.  Some are beginning to worry about groceries - even those who were prepared for a day or two did not prepare for perhaps five days being stuck at home.   Others are reporting, sheepishly, that they went out and fell down.  Some have given road reports - most to the tune of "I went out and it was scary and I advise you to stay home!"  (I know I did.)  Some are watching their bird feeders, others are watching (or being) sledders.

The most fortunate of us will realize the gift that this time is.  (Especially if we are not engrossed in worry about getting to the office.)  Because so many places are closed, we have permission to sleep in peacefully, play board games or watch movies or read or do some kind of project in peace.  We have the chance to have real conversations with family members over repeated meals together (a rarity in our family and I am sure many others with busy children and work requirements).  There is time to play together.  We have a chance to help our neighbors in a meaningful way - what a blessing it was for us to have a neighbor with appropriate snow shovels (they came from Colorado); their son went out to shovel the sidewalks in front of neighbors' houses, too.  In addition to the quiet, there is this time slowdown.  Nowhere to go, no schedule to meet, no guilt to feel about not being productive, about taking time to play.  Someone said they heard on NPR that Atlanta was totally shut down - and nobody seemed to care.     Nobody's out of power or water, so let's just sleep late and read and sled and cook soup until it thaws.

The most unfortunate among us, however, are suffering greatly.  We have a large homeless population here and the shelters are overrun, and those who regularly help out at the shelters are unable to get to them to bring supplies and food.   There is no way that people will survive sleeping outdoors this second night of low teen temperatures.  Those who are busy cleaning out their closets at home have no way to take the extra clothes and coats and linens to the shelters now.  Let's hope we all remember to do so as soon as we can, though, to be ready for the next time.  And of course to keep the homeless and those who care for them in our prayers.  (I was gratified that my son mentioned this when saying grace last night.)  Prayers may seem futile, but they never are.  If nothing else, they help keep us mindful of the needs of others, which may spur us to action.

By next week, temperatures will be back in the 50's, and all of this will seem like a blip on the screen, a time to remember the time when everyone just stopped for a few days.