Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow Day, Inside and Out

Life is about choices, about balancing what we want with what we need, what and whom we will be near with what and whom we will miss.

Missing my daughter in Colorado is a constant ache, a dull throb like that of a tooth that you walk around with your tongue over to protect. It might be different if she had reached the age to fly the nest and left for college, but instead, the nest disintegrated around her, and with all the other changes in the world last year, her father retired from one job and came to South Carolina to take another. Being apart was a given. Where I would be was the choice--somewhere in this country, or in another land, half a globe away.

But there is balance. That throb of missing one daughter is constant, but on the other side of the scale, I am in the same time zone with almost everyone else that I so dearly love. I see her older sister every few weeks, one way or another. I even see the younger every six weeks or so, sometimes more often, sometimes a little less. There is Facebook and MySpace and text and e-mail and video messaging, but bear hugs and butterfly kisses don't quite translate through those things.

What brought all this on today was seeing photos in The Salisbury Post of the snow in the neighborhood of my childhood home. Those photos reminded me how glad I am to be here, in the South, on this side of the world where most of my heart resides. Originally, that had been the topic I intended to post. Funny how the truth outs itself. The joy is pure and transporting, and instantly balanced by the throb of an absence that will never completely fade, for either of us I expect. I look at the scenes of snow, think of the gray skies covering a world that seems to light itself from the bottom up, and think, "She'd like this . . . but her head would be awfully cold today." (That would be because she took part in a benefit for cancer at her school, and is now sporting the hairstyle of Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta.)

I drove back from Georgia through that snow on Sunday night and into Monday morning. It's the first time the Jeep has been in 4WD since Colorado, but it was in that mode for well over an hour during that trip. I chose to come the southern route, through Athens and Augusta on US-78 rather than through Greenville on I-85 and I-26. It was, so far as I could tell from the news yesterday, a good decision. Though the major shutdown of the interstate appears to have occurred slightly north of my route, it could just as easily have been me out there stuck for seven hours. Surface roads don't have that problem. You can always go around. But stuck on an interstate is stuck. And by driving late that night, I avoided the only real obstacle a 4WD Jeep Grand Cherokee outfitted with fresh, new tires would face: other drivers. In all, the alternate route and snow together added less than an hour to the trip, and was, actually, rather beautiful.

As for what inspired this post, you can see a gallery of photos from readers of The Charlotte Observer here. (The Salisbury Post is closer to home and has better photos, but is too worried about their copyright to post images of sufficient quality to even be enjoyable on the gallery. "Buy this photo" teases one button on their site. Well, if I could see it, I might be tempted, but . . .)

Here are a couple of the better ones from the Observer. Enjoy.