gimbling header

Since my plans for an original Gimbling in the Wabe went a bit off the rails this week, I’m taking
advantage of this morning’s snow to dust off a former offering.  Even though today’s snow was nothing even remotely like what came down in 2013 (when this essay was first published), it nevertheless was
honest to goodness snow, and this is indeed April.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

snow bench 2

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending
But all good things, they say, never last
And all good things they say, never last
And love, just isn’t love until it’s passed

Those lyrics are from Sometimes It Snows in April, a little known but incredibly moving song by Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as Prince, or, at one time, the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.  But now he’s just Prince again.

Prince would know about snow in April, being that he’s from Minnesota, and still resides here when he’s not on the road.  And it’s also quite apropos today, since I’m sitting in my living room right now, and it’s April, I’m in Minnesota and yes, it’s snowing.  Not just the feeble snow I sneered at a couple days ago when the local weather forecasters started sounding the alarm, but a full out, piling up, covering-the-sleet-that-came-first kind of snow that is the bane of fun and frolicking and run-of-the-mill commutes in the wintertime.  Except it’s not winter anymore: it’s been spring for almost three weeks now by the meteorological calendar, and we actually had a few days of promising spring weather to whet our appetites.  We thought we had turned the corner; we should have turned the corner by now.  But something seems to have gone wrong today, because there’s about 5″ on the ground already and it’s still coming down.

Snow dogI suppose I should be thinking about heading out into it soon, to shovel and to let the Mighty Belle romp a bit since we didn’t make it to the dog park this morning.  (If there’s one wonderful advantage to being self-employed it’s that you can often pick and choose whether or not to be mobile.)  But that can wait a bit, because the snow is still coming down at a good clip, and my lingering first cup of coffee is still warm, and I just don’t feel like heading out quite yet.

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, a local food and wine writer and senior editor of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, admitted on her Facebook page this morning that she was at least partially to blame for today’s snow, stating “I did put the shovel in the garage and transfer to my spring coat. I did do that. Mistakes were made.”  Others ‘fessed up to boxing up their gloves and mittens or bringing their bikes out of storage.  Tongue in cheek, sure.  Chuckle inducing, yes.  Completely off base?  Uh huh.

We like to put ourselves at the center of our universe.  Heck, that’s our default position, a component of our deeply ingrained survival techniques.  But the world is so much bigger than we are, the concept of “normal” is just as made up as Daffy Duck or coffee being necessary or that you shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day.  We want to put things in order, we want to compartmentalize and prioritize and rank in value those things that we have deemed important or those things of which we have come to cherish; we want to declare that snow in April is not normal and commiserate with others about it when it happens.

Doing these things certainly aren’t “wrong”, but they do expose us as being somewhat insular, as if we were islands of our own existence, individually, nationalistically, culturally.  Our world is so much bigger now than our individual expectations.  As our knowledge of the world grows both globally and intimately, and as our ability to interact with so many others who have such radically different experiences expands exponentially and immediately, we need to be more skeptical about what is “normal” and instead simply concentrate on what is, and determine if or how we should react to that.

After all, “normal” is based on past knowledge, on what has come before.  Because it has come before, we expect it to come again, in the same way.  While being aware of what has come before, and learning from it, is a good thing, too often if there is deviation from a past pattern, especially if that deviation affects us in a negative way – say, if it snows in April – then it must be bad.  And if it’s bad, we need to find the cause and fix it.  And therein lies a huge danger.  We may not fully understand the cause, and therefore tampering with the circumstances might bring about greater and more devastating abnormalities than were anticipated.  (Rabbits in Australia, anyone?)  Or, we may assign a cause, based on our deeply held beliefs, that really have nothing to do with anything and may be counter to someone else’s deeply held beliefs.  (Can you say, “Westboro Baptist Church”?  Now, can you say it without sneering?  Didn’t think so.)  Or, we may not be willing or able to identify the true cause of the abnormality, so we treat the symptoms instead, in effect spinning our wheels as the problem continues unabated despite our frantic actions against it.  Sometimes assuming that we can affect circumstances at all is in itself delusional (as rally hats – and rally monkeys – will attest).

Then we might get depressed because it seems like we cannot deal with these things outside the norm.  Like Prince, we might sit around and “feel so bad, so bad.”  Helpless.  Caught.  Resigned to our fate.  Forced into coping with cold and snow and ice, having to deal with shoveling and getting wet and huddling under grey skies when we should be watching the new grass emerge and waking up to birdsong, enjoying the shedding of layers and anticipating being barefoot again, when we should be out riding bikes and splashing in rain puddles while scanning for flower buds,  and sipping lemonade or gin and tonics instead of cocoa (or lukewarm coffee).

Or maybe, just maybe, we can let go of what is normal, and instead, embrace that which is.  Think not that snow in April is abhorrent, but that it is unexpected.  That while snow in April might have thrown us a curve ball, it’s pretty darned cool that we have built in diversity in our lives, that life itself keeps us on our toes, that it’s wonderful that life is so much bigger than we can compartmentalize.  We can marvel that as the sleet was falling last night, slapping coldly against our bedroom window in the wee hours, that there was also thunder.  Thunder!  That doesn’t happen in December or January!  The magic that is thundersnow tends to happen only when snow comes late in the year, like in April.  That’s freaky cool.

And then we might realize that while it’s okay to be thrown for a loop when something unexpected occurs,  we can often find something marvelous in it.  Or if not marvelous, then at least it may allow us a bit of spontaneity.  Or it can allow us to flex our flexibility.  At the very least, we need not give up on our expectations.  The snow will melt (most likely, very quickly).  The grass will green and the flowers will emerge and the bikes will come out as the mittens and gloves disappear.  Dara will be able to safely put her snow shovel in her garage and start wearing her spring coat again.  And even before then, any one of us can still sip lemonade (or gin and tonics) despite there being a half a foot of snow on the ground.  In April.

Ah, well, enough rambling.  It’s time for me and the Mighty Belle to go out and shovel some snow.  Well, I’ll shovel, and she’ll romp.  Maybe I’ll throw her a few snowballs – she loves chasing snowballs, and we probably won’t get another chance to do that again for quite some time.  After all, it’s April.  It’s not normal for it to snow in April, don’tcha know.

~ Sharon Browning

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