The current D.C. snow dump wouldn’t count for much in northern parts. But here in the District, many are enjoying a surprise snow day. And why not make the most of it?
If you’re at home, get under the covers and immerse yourself in an epic fictional snowstorm. The entire staff of City Paper is coming to work, but we nonetheless want to offer suggestions for those at home in the bed.
The Meadow by James Galvin
When a father and his three sons are caught in a surprise October blizzard in northern Colorado, the father has to walk behind his frail youngest child, kicking him in the pants every 20 feet to keep him walking—and therefore warm. The fear of death permeates this story. The family takes shelter by a muskrat nest, where the father tells his sons about the time he and his own father wrestled a bear. Meanwhile, his mind is racing to figure out where on the snow-covered land they might be.
My Ántonia by Willa Cather
In the middle of this classic prairie novel, Russian immigrants to the Nebraska plains tell the story of how they left a bride and groom to die by the road during a blizzard back in Russia because a giant pack of wolves was overturning carriages in the marriage procession and eating both horses and humans alive. The tale foreshadows the dreadful first winter in America that Ántonia is about to survive.
Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
It’s one snow storm after another in this collection, which includes “Brokeback Mountain.” In the lesser-known “The Half-Skinned Steer,” the first story in the book, a man returning to Wyoming for his brother’s funeral drives his car into a snowstorm before he makes it to his old home. The storm bewilders and breaks him. He dies. He was traveling from Massachusetts.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This one isn’t fiction. What many children fail to notice as they read The Long Winter is that the Ingalls family nearly died of starvation during the endless blizzard that was the South Dakota winter of 1881. Food-stuffed westbound trains couldn’t break through the snowpack from December to May. To save the town of De Smet from starving, two young men drove their horses 20 miles looking for a homesteader rumored to have a good store of wheat. They found their way on a 360-degree prairie snowscape, sinking deep into the drifts as they went, charging through a fresh blizzard on their final leg. They returned home with hard-won, town-saving wheat in tow.
The Ingalls family read stories aloud to each other during the winter of 1881, which is another way to celebrate this day if you’re at home.
Or dig in to Jane Eyre. In the middle of Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane is reading alone by the fire, a blizzard roaring outside her humble cottage, when John River comes unexpectedly to her door with news: Jane is not poor, but the heiress of her long-lost and now-dead uncle’s fortune; Jane is not unloved, but the object of a search undertaken by her dear Mr. Rochester; Jane is not without family, but actually the cousin of this very Mr. Rivers, who is covered in snow and he explains his discoveries to a bewildered Jane.
Big things happen for people in the middle of snowstorms, at least in fiction. A blizzard story always transforms a dull day into a life-changing one, if only in one’s mind.