The library where I work moved into a new building three years ago, and since then it has become a bit of a town living room. In the winter locals stop in between errands to warm up by the fireplace, or to check their email or browse through the new books. Friends meet there to play chess or to knit. It’s also a great place for small talk. I’m one of the chattier librarians, which I guess might be bad since libraries are supposed to be quiet places, but one of the things I like about living in a small town is being on a friendly basis with most everyone I see.
Some days everybody is talking about the most recent antics of our ex-governor, or about the high school hockey team. Last week there were lots of comments about the six puppies that were left near a dumpster in a kennel with the word “HELP” spray painted on the sides. Something always has folks talking, and if no local politician has done anything gossip-worthy, or there haven’t been any house fires, then we always have Mother Nature to fall back on. Last March Mt. Redoubt, the volcano across Cook Inlet, gave us all something to speculate about and yesterday the library was abuzz with talk of the impending storm that the weather service predicted would start at 4:00pm.
Blizzards aren’t terribly unusual here in Homer, so you wouldn’t think we’d get all excited about them, but we do. For a little while, before every dramatic storm, the town feels like Christmas Eve. The grocery stores get busy with people wanting to “stock up.” Folks rush to the library so they won’t run out of reading material. Trying to find a parking place at the video store becomes impossible.
We say that all of the bustling about is for the sake of preparedness, but in reality you won’t find a population more prepared for disaster than Alaskans. We have full propane tanks, multiple cords of firewood, plenty of food and, I’d guess, more entertainment options at home than we’d ever consume while waiting out one measly storm. I think the pre-blizzard giddiness that happens is just our excitement over the possibility of having a snow day or two. We all just want an excuse to stay home for a while, and in case that happens we want to make sure we have half and half for our coffee and couple of good movies.
As individuals we’ve adapted to the extreme conditions here, and so have the road crews and city maintenance workers. We should know better than to hope for a snow day. But we can’t seem to help ourselves. Whenever the national weather service issues a winter storm warning the fantasies start to play out in our minds. We imagine a day of tending the fire, drinking hot cocoa, cooking a slow, savory stew.
Yesterday, just like the weather service predicted, the wind started to pick up around 4:00 pm. The library was a flurry of activity until we closed at six. It was cool to see people in town preparing not for the storm, but for the off chance, the hope, of this being that one big blizzard that happens every few years that allows us to stay home for a few days. Even in Homer, Alaska we manage to fill up our time with work, school, sports, meetings and a hundred other things. A harsh storm gives us all reason to pause and remember that slowing down wouldn’t be such a bad thing. We know that we’re able to get where we need to go when the snow is three feet deep and blowing sideways; but just because we can doesn’t always mean that we should. I think we need more snow days.