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Posted at 5:33 PM ET, 02/21/2010

Lapsing into a snowma

By editors

By Janice Lynch Schuster
Riva, Md.

It seems that the major snowstorms that hit us this month reinforced for others a sense of community and belonging, of innovative ways to keep occupied while hunkered down in a blizzard, of strategies for not going crazy while cooped up with the kids. Friends told me how they experimented with new recipes and full fridges; they described hours of board games and movies, Wii and Nintendo, shoveling and salting. My husband and I kept ourselves busy clearing paths around our secluded house — one path to the trash cans, one to the woodpile and another to the generator, set up just in case the power went out. Our teenagers shoveled the 400-foot driveway, and I tried to make a path from the sliding door to the birdfeeder on the back deck. We drank hot toddies — bourbon mixed with honey, lemon juice and warm water — and we succumbed to the lure of On Demand movies and what I could download from Netflix.

But what I will remember most from this unprecedented snow is the discovery that my house is a wreck.

Being stuck in it for a week, I had ample time to contemplate the cacophony of clutter: the dust bunnies and dirty bathroom floors, the grime along the edge of the kitchen baseboard, the dirty walls covered with fingerprints at the entrance to every room. There were piles of laundry everywhere, snowpants and gloves, mittens and earmuffs, scarves and skullcaps. There were boots and more boots, snow tracked in dirty drifts from the front door to the kitchen. The trails of dirt circled the dining room table and culminated at the woodstove, where bits of wood had broken off everywhere and beneath which the dog had set up permanent residence. Even the dog — a white West Highland terrier — had a streak of sooty dust from his withers to his haunches.

Everywhere I looked, as one snowbound day dragged into another, I encountered more housekeeping failures, more evidence that I am no paragon of perfect floors and tidy corners. I am, like my house, a lived-in sort of mess.

Each day, when I woke, I resolved to do something about the disarray. But my bed had become such a cozy cocoon — books stacked on nightstands, magazines on the floor and at the foot of the bed, knitting needles poking out of my bag — that there were many reasons not to do something. I thought about the things I could do — the vacuum, the Swiffer, the dusting and the polishing, the laundry and the foyer, the dog and the doorways — and I thought twice. Ennui overtook me. I would look outside at the drifts and snow and feel uninspired by everything, too lazy even to dress or venture outdoors. I was afflicted by snowma — a snow-induced coma in which nothing seemed important. My husband and I played Qwirkle. I hung out with my youngest watching television. I fixed frozen foods. I hibernated.

Twelve days into this snowbound winter, my house remained a mess and the kids had still not returned to school, since the sidewalks and bus stops and fire hydrants had not been cleared. But I learned something from this snowstorm: I could actually get through days of doing nothing. In contrast to my usual life, with its commutes to Washington and its deadlines, its trips to the mall with teenagers and to basketball practice with the younger child, the snow forced me to do nothing.

The secret, which I have yet to master, is to enjoy some guilt-free nothingness. Mess or snowmess, I might as well enjoy it as fret about it. Dust bunnies or Dust Busters, it’s the people in my life who matter, not the location, not the staging, but the relationships.

By editors  | February 21, 2010; 5:33 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, weather  
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typical self-indulgent; let's shut it down DC. your kids are going to be in school until mid june to make up for the time lost.

Posted by: morris_ae | February 22, 2010 5:50 AM | Report abuse

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