We woke to fresh snow most mornings last week. I’d open my eyes and examine the light peeking around the curtain edges, deciding if it was a bright snowy glow or a darker rainy dimness, clues as to how I’d spend my day.
It doesn’t snow every winter, or for long periods, so it’s stunning and beautiful for us every time. It’s also inconvenient for most folks because Portland comes to a standstill. Schools are closed, public transportation stalls, and most streets aren’t plowed or sanded or salted. Those that are can still be treacherous when shaded or traveled by inexperienced drivers, which is pretty much everyone, even if they don’t know it. There were crashes on every city highway and our nearest hilly road was littered with cars that slid into each other or into the steep drainage ditches on either side. Once in, you’re stuck until a tow truck gets you out.
Our winter storms have an element of surprise. While the forecasters like to use the word Snowpocalypse, my neighbor referred to our latest series of snowfalls as Snowlercoaster. The predictions are a maybe, or probably, or it could just hail, or snow a little but not stick, or possibly several inches, or maybe just in the mountains, or snow overnight and you don’t know when it will warm up enough to melt what’s on the roads. There’s a lot of wait and see before you can decide what to do and where to go.
But what a difference a day makes. Last Friday most everything melted. The skies cleared and views of the Cascades showed gleaming snow-capped peaks. Clouds of the white and fluffy sort drifted lazily in a dazzling blue sky. The temperature climbed to 50, which we haven’t seen in a while. Or at least I don’t remember; perhaps it’s frozen out of recollection.
I wanted, needed, to take a walk in full sun rather than the many forested trails or shady neighborhood paths I usually take. Willamette Park isn’t the most beautiful park around. There’s a public boat dock and ramp, a yacht club, a dog park, and not much else. But you can park there and walk onto the Greenway Trail that parallels the Willamette River. To the north it winds toward the South Waterfront and Downtown Portland, and southward it extends to Sellwood Bridge. With the river to the east and condos and a few business parks on the west, it’s quiet, pleasant, and most importantly, lies primarily in open sunshine.
We passed people of all ages biking, walking, running, and I imagined all of us were in a celebratory mood. A lycra covered hula hooper worked out on a grassy knoll overlooking the water, and a woman pulled her kayak along the path on its wheeled cart. People walked dogs, people talked on phones. “Looks like rain coming Wednesday then snow on Friday,” one was saying, so we stayed well informed as we went.
But nevermind that. Today? SUNSHINE! It felt like winter never happened. The gloves came off early, and I tied my jacket around my waist for the first time this winter. Such beautiful water – so recently a muddy brown flow during these last storms, now back to its alluring azure shades and an array of textures according to the breeze, the river bottom, or the curve of the shoreline. I basked as I walked, my spirits boundlessly expanding, unable to contain my joy.
Passing a man basking on a bench, he smiled broadly and joked, “Terrible weather we’re having right? I’m thinking I’ll have to move away!” Yep, the sun keeps coming out in the nick of time. Now I’m piling on my warmest clothes for another outing in the cold but I’ll carry the memory of that warmer day. There will be more ahead.