If you’ve had a conversation with any Utahn in the last month, you’ve likely witnessed a phenomenon unique to this very long winter. I’m calling it grateful anguish.
“Oh, it snowed again,” we say through clenched teeth, trying to hide our utter despair. “That’s so great. We really need it,” we add as a single tear rolls down our faces.
And that’s not a lie. It is great that we’ve been pummeled with snow for the last six months. We do need it since 95% of the water we use to survive comes from our snowpack, and this one good winter is the first step towards digging us out of our mega-super-very-severe drought and saving the Great Salt Lake.
Every storm is a blessing. But also the absolute worst.
I want to be very clear — this column is not for young, carefree people who own Ikon passes and have spent the last four months shredding fresh pow. These guys are having the best year of their lives. And good for them.
But the rest of us have jobs and commutes and children and driveways and utility bills, and the snow — which again, we need and are oh my goodness so grateful for — makes each of those aspects of our lives exponentially more difficult. I’ve spent more than a few mornings on I-15 this winter wondering if it would be my last, my kids have worn holes in their down coats, and visitors to my north-facing house risk their lives on our black ice rink if we aren’t vigilant with the shoveling. So much shoveling.
Much of our anguish, too, is caused by how late in the season the snow has arrived.
In December, soft flakes falling outside a cabin window onto billowy mounds of pure white snow are a welcome sight for anyone with even a whisper of holiday cheer, clutching their mug of hot cocoa while sitting beside a crackling fire.
But 18 inches at the end of February can make even the most enthusiastic winter appreciator groan with despair.
Especially when the school district calls, texts and emails to announce classes are canceled.
Snow days sound fun! And are fun! For about 20 minutes — the length of time the average child can stand being outside in a blizzard in 17-degree weather. They become a lot less fun when teachers email a list of assignments to be completed at home — all requiring separate logins to various online programs, none of which you or your child can remember — because it’s not technically a snow day, it’s a remote learning day, a phrase that triggers intense 2020 flashbacks for anyone who had to guide a small child through online kindergarten.
A few weeks ago we had a Saturday afternoon when the temperature reached 45 degrees and everyone lost their minds. My children put on shorts and found popsicles, furry with ice, from the depths of the freezer.
We watched cyclists ride by and joggers in tanks run past. Birds sang, bees buzzed and it felt as though the residents of the valley might break out in coordinated song and dance at any moment. We smiled. We laughed. We felt vibrant and alive.
But then it snowed the next morning. And that small taste of happiness the day prior, a glimmer of hope for spring, made the snow feel like a direct hit to the gut.
But we’re grateful! We need it! We want to water our lawns this summer, or at least feel less guilty about watering our lawns this summer! And this is so great for our ski resorts!
Yeah, we’re crying but it’s fine. We just have to shovel the sidewalks real quick and find one kid’s glove and another kid’s hat and drive down a sheet of ice to get to the store for more ice melt and remember to take our vitamin D supplement and maybe do some UV lamp therapy.
Sometimes you get a gift that you appreciate so much but also hate. Like a sweater someone spent hours knitting for you in a color that looks awful with your complexion. That’s how I’m feeling about the snow outside except it’s a sweater I have to wear all the time. We all do. And thank goodness.
Because boy do we need it.