The ceilings have been lowered and the walls are pushing in. Even if the winds weren’t howling, if sprays of rain weren’t pelting the side of the house, even if I were warm and dry inside a silent house with no access to the weather forecast, I would feel this storm. It’s all pressure. It’s a dull headache and achy joints. It’s slowing me down.
Outside everything is accelerated: Gusts to 55mph. Three feet of snow from Tuesday now condensed to a waterlogged foot and a half. The driveway, meticulously plowed a few days ago to allow us access to the world, has become a southern sloping waterway; its riverbed made of ice. Inside we sip coffee, read books. We think of the things we’ll bake—assuming the electricity stays. We watch water pour off the roof, wonder when the snow will reach its saturation point. Dinner with friends across town is cancelled.
The forecasters have used the word cyclone to describe this storm. The satellite image is reminiscent of hurricanes and typhoons. The startling terminology aside, this kind of weather system is not uncommon here and it poses no danger to our house. We aren’t in a flood zone. No trees will blow over onto our roof. We might lose our power and we might be cut off from getting to town for a few days, but even those things are unlikely. All we really have to do is keep a fire burning in the wood stove and wait for things to get back to normal.
Several years ago a relative asked me, “What’s so special about Alaska?” Her accusing tone made me defensive and I talked about the mountains and the ocean and the extreme weather. I talked about the long hours of daylight in the summer, the darkness in the winter. I mentioned the northern lights and grizzly bears. Everything I said was true, but she wasn’t convinced. And to be honest, neither was I—every place has something to make it special. But her pointed question and my inadequate answers have stayed with me.
And today there is no place I have to be, no thing I have to do, which allows me to enjoy this storm and whatever it might bring. Outside, the world is a giant swirl of wind and rain and snow and muck, and as I’m writing this I can see a bald eagle from the window beside my kitchen table. Its wings are spread. It’s coasting on the currents of this storm—rising and falling—giving in to the push and pull of the wind. I watch it and wonder, what’s so special about children? Or coffee, or flowers or chocolate, for that matter. What’s the big deal about the sky or stars or fire? Why spend an hour writing about a storm or watching an eagle play in the winds of a cyclone?
No reason. No reason at all.