Lessons from Snow

9 01 2010

This is going to be one of those Winters that people look back on saying, “Do you remember the snow of 2010?”   Where we live we don’t normally do snow. I was only thinking that a year or so back – we only see snow about once every ten years here. I think this is the second year running we’ve had snow – still not much but sufficient to slow life up.

Elsewhere in the country that have HAD SNOW. The media have been having a field day and the snow has been the number one talking point for the past week. We’ve seen every facet of it: the impassable roads, the children off school playing in the snow (thousands of schools shut), people off work (over a million off the other day), the beautiful landscapes, pictures sent in to TV stations by viewers (a new facet of the communication world),  stories of people being rescued, people being carried to hospital by helicopter, terrible stories of people falling through the ice on ponds and dying, innumerable pictures of cars, lorries and buses slithering around hopelessly on the ice and the inevitable comparisons with other countries who cope better than we do. So Calgary airport has dozens of snow ploughs and Gatwick has only a couple? That’s because Calgary is snowed in every year but for us it is a rarity (we hope!)

And then there are the shortages: shortages of grit or rock salt for the roads and shortages being talked about of oil or gas. At that point you start thinking about it more seriously. Then there are the homes without electricity – how do they cope? – then there is the talk of falling temperatures so that one place can say it has the same temperature as the South Pole. Even for us who get little snow, minus 3 or 4 degrees is now becoming common. Elsewhere, figures varying between minus 10 to minus 20 have not been exceptional. But is has been exceptional because that’s not what we do here!

I have commented on this before, but it has risen here in this past week again, this sense that it doesn’t take much for us to be out of control and realising how fragile life can be sometimes. There is talk of this weather continuing at least another week. We have already seen pictures of a farmer pouring away his milk because the lorries can’t reach his farm. How often is that picture being repeated?  We’ve already  seen large lorries that supply the supermarkets being held up. Now comes talk of running out of grit on the roads and the threat of even more shortages. Suddenly the certainty of full shelves on nearby supermarkets is not so certain. Talk of oil or gas rationing and electricity cuts, now brings the possibility of the cold confronting all of us in a new way, possibly even a life threatening way. Suddenly we are all hoping that it will not last more than another week, but if it settled in for another month, we would be in a very different ball game it seems. Suddenly we are on life threatening terms, and we’re not very good with that because it doesn’t happen in our world! Pictures of snow can be beautiful but it is only beautiful while life can carry on as almost normal. If we move in to life threatening times, that beauty starts looking hostile. The Beauty starts looking like a life threatening Beast.

Suddenly our pride and our self-confidence is taking a battering. We are no longer in control; in fact we are being threatened and there seems little we can do about it. We are indeed at the mercy of the elements if they continue on handing out more of the same – and we are powerless to change it. If it does continue longer, I suspect the prayer life of the nation may change. That we need but it’s a shame it has to take snow to bring it about.

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