All Around Us, Children Playing, Having Fun

When I first moved to Portland, the concept of a snowfall that lasted more than, say, an evening, felt like an alien concept. I can remember with embarrassing clarity how ill-prepared I was for the first blizzard here, which arrived within a month of my arrival; I wandered out in what had felt like a heavy coat by California standards, only to end up huddled in a doorway, shivering and wondering what the hell was going on and could I get back to the house without dying of cold. (That’s only slightly more melodramatic than what I was actually feeling at the time.)

Within a couple of years, though, I’d discovered Portland’s snowy secret: It snows every year here. It’s not as if I can say it’s regular, or “like clockwork,” but it’s somewhere close — it will almost certainly snow at least once in January or February every year, and more often than not, it’ll stick around at least for a couple of days. The years where that doesn’t happen are far, far more rare than the alternative. With that kind of frequency, it’s relatively easy to get used to the snow and prepare for it.

The funny thing — and it is funny to me — is that Portland as a city seems unable to do that. It feels like, every year, there’s mild panic buying in stores as soon as snow is forecast, and then when it’s started falling and lying on the ground, you can see people wandering around as if they’re in a post-apocalyptic landscape with handmade bindles full of supplies, their faces covered with scarves and goggles as they stare into the distance. That’s saying nothing about people abandoning their cars on the sides of the road if the snow gets particularly heavy, which I’ve seen happen more than once.

Quite what’s behind the city’s collective amnesia when it comes to cold weather continues to fascinate me. Things could be so much easier for everyone here if they’d get panic less and remember what it was like this time last year… but I can’t deny that it’s especially wonderful to me when, just like right now, the snow is falling outside my window and I suspect that half of my town thinks that the sky is falling.

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