Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fear of Snow?

Hanging out in Boston during the wintertime is quite an experience for a west coaster like me. A few years ago, on a trip to visit a friend, we had several days of heavy snowfall. That’s not something I experience too much in Seattle. The snow is so beautiful, wafting downward, landing on tree limbs, winter-bare landscaping and lawn furniture. The steady snow had already put a good 6 inches on the ground over the previous few days, with more on the way. I was a little shocked to realize that, as I gazed at the peaceful winter scene outside, I was having a little tightening in my stomach. I felt fear. I knew that it had to do with the snow… but I also knew I needed to think this through a bit to uncover the whole story.

Who could possibly be afraid of snow? You east coasters probably can’t relate to this phenomenon at all. You see, on the west coast, at least in the areas between the mountains and the ocean, we don’t get too much snow. An inch or two of snow can literally paralyze a city. People freak out completely! As soon as a single snowflake falls there are rumors about school closures. If it snows for ½ an hour the rumors expand to include speculation about whether public events be cancelled! Now, in all fairness, we aren’t used to a lot of snow. We don’t know how to drive in snow and we have very little snow removal equipment. So, at least a certain degree of internal discomfort around a snow storm is to be expected. The reaction of most pacific north-westerners to snow, however, is simply not rational. I’m convinced that it is a ‘group-think’ consciousness phenomenon.

From my earliest years I can remember the reactions of all the adults around me when there was snow. We kids would be delighted and excited. The adults would look stricken… horrified… dejected… very worried. I think I must have absorbed this conditioned response at the cellular level. As much as I’ve traveled and hung out in snowy places, I still experience an automatic, internal ‘gasp’ when I see snow falling. I’ve cultivated an adult love and admiration for snow… but I have not yet been able to rid myself of those little nagging pangs of fear that occur when I see the fluffy white stuff descending from the sky.

This past week I was up in Castlegar BC. It's getting colder up there, and the snow can start at any time. When I planned this trip, I was a bit worried about the possibility of encountering snow. I had to cross two mountain passes. I put on winter snow tires on my Subaru Outback before my trip and hoped upon hope that the winter weather would wait for me to sneak in and sneak out before it descended.

God has a sense of humor. The weather was cold, but fairly clear the entire week I was on my trip. My drive over to Spokane and up to Castlegar was accomplished under sunny, clear skies. The entire time I was in Castlegar it was cold, but pleasant weather. My last morning in Castlegar I got up and started to pack up my car. You'll never guess what happened!! It started snowing! Out of a mostly blue sky, the snow started flurrying. Just enough snow to dust the ground slightly. I felt that familiar tightening in my stomach and I worried about my long drive ahead. Then, I decided there was nothing I could do about it and decided to just relax. In the end, it was just a flurry, and within an hour there were no more traces of snow.

I think this phenomenon is one that we should always be on the lookout for inside ourselves. What conditioned responses lurk in us? How many times do we simply go on autopilot and let our old tapes dictate how we think, feel or react to something? Definitely worth some pondering. It isn’t easy to shut off those old conditioned responses… but it is possible, with diligence and determination. So, I say… Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

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