There was a great storm predicted here in Asheville. On Friday, pale clouds blotted out the sun and snowflakes began whirling out of the late afternoon sky. Snow means something different here than where I grew up. Where I grew up, we enjoyed snowstorms, particularly the ones in early winter before the land grew grey and iced and tired, but life could not stop for them.
By Friday evening, the backroads were white and still, and the main roads were a mess of wrecks and spinoffs. Our house was already well stocked with food, so I didn't have to dash up the street to the grocery store. I put the dutch oven on the stove with broth, onions, carrots and celery and let it simmer. When Dave got home from work we wrapped ourselves up in our jackets and tore outside.
The snowflakes were still falling thickly. Dave had read that up to 15 feet was going to fall in the High Sierra, and we wondered aloud what that could possibly look like. I imagined being inside a mountain cabin and watching the snow as it overtook the windows on the first floor, then the second, and eventually buried the house until there was nothing left of it but a white swell on the hillside.
When I lived in Seattle I was a back-country skier. When I took my avalanche safety course at Mt. Baker there had been over 10 feet of powder to contend with. That had been too much snow. All I learned from that weekend was how exhausting it was to burrow out of endless snow every time you took a fall, which, under those conditions, was often.
The quiet streets of our neighborhood sparkled under each circle of light from the streetlamps. Our little dog romped ahead of us, burying her body into the drifts and then bursting out the other side looking surprised and joyful.
Every year in the Blue Ridge we get one big snowstorm. Schools and businesses are closed for the better half of a week, and the shelves in the grocery stores where the bread and milk had been stand empty, like big gap-teeth. The town is very pretty and still, and people holding all manners of sleds (trash can lids, canoes, the rare actual store-bought sled, plastic cutting boards, trash bags) flock to the steeper streets to go sliding.
Saturday we decided to have friends over to play some games. Dave and I and the dog trundled up in the street in seven inches of squeaking-cold snow. It was only 15 degrees, which is considered to be practically arctic down here. At the store we bought whipping cream and a bottle of sake. Then since it was downhill all the way home, Dave sat on the sled, I placed the grocery bag and the dog on his lap, took hold of his shoulders and ran him through the street until he took off on his own.
Dave whizzed past a man on a road bike with narrow tires, trying to pedal straight up the slick, unplowed street. The thin wheels refused to grip onto the snow. "I don't understand!" He remarked as I passed by. "This bike is new! This is a new bike!"
Our friends came over that night. Our house is so small that we had to pile all the jackets behind us on the couch. The coat closet was full and the floor was covered in dripping winter boots. I made hot chocolate in the dutch oven. Hot chocolate must never be made from a package. You must mix plain cocoa with sugar, milk and a little bit of maple syrup- that's the secret. We whipped the cream by a shaking it in a mason jar, since we still don't own a hand mixer. If I never cave and buy a handmixer, maybe one day I'll own a Kitchenaid Mixer in the same pistachio color that my friend Cassie owns. But I also know that day will only come we find one abandoned on the doorstep, and then we get a bigger kitchen.
Our kitchen is very small, just a step above pocket-sized, and David laments over any new gadget or utensil that enters it, regardless of how necessary they might be. He says that counter space is our most precious commodity.
Everyone drank the hot chocolate, and the sake, and the honey gin we got from my dad for Christmas. We played Snake Oil, and MadGab, and after a few hours most of our visitors started bundling up to head home. Because the roads were effectively closed, they had all walked from their homes a mile away. By midnight, only Dan and Molly were left. Dan told a story about how he had been stranded on the highway the night before from 8pm to 3am, only three exits from home. By the time traffic began to finally move, Dan had to get out of his car and run down the highway, knocking on windows and waking up the other drivers.
Even though the storm happened on a Friday night, Dave's school closed for a day and half the next week because it had been so cold and the snow hadn't melted. I can't get any work done when he stays home all day. If I shut myself up in my room with my laptop he usually wanders in after ten minutes or so. "I brought you the dog," he'll say, depositing the warm little bundle next to me. Then ten minutes later, "I brought you a cutting board covered in different snacks." Even when he stays in the living room, I can hear the movie he's watching with our roommate, Erin, and I can hear them laughing.
So I gave up on most of the work, and instead spent the day and a half cooking and baking. We played a round of Bananagrams which ended in an argument (because Pondscumming is not a word) and Farckle. By the end of the second day, the hygge began to wear thin and the togetherness was getting to us all. That was the end of the snow days, and the next morning regular life began again.
(Winter is one of my four favorite seasons, and obviously I have cozy on the brain. Southeasterners, check out the article I wrote for Blue Ridge Outdoors that blends Hygge and adventure. Pick up a copy of the magazine or read it online. In Search of Hygge: 4 Cozy and Warm Winter Adventures in the Southeast. Congrats to my friend Derek, who nabbed the cover with his ridiculously cool photo, and my friend Anna who won the Blue Ridge Outdoors Most Influential Outdoors Person of 2016! )