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“Everybody here is standing at the windows, gawking. It’s like they’re mole people who’ve never seen the sun.” –My text to my wife, Amy, to describe my co-workers’ reactions to the sudden snowstorm (barely accumulated) in downtown Portland. Bunch of …...

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Filed Under , on February 24th, 2018

Diversional Senses

By Seth Kabala

“Everybody here is standing at the windows, gawking. It’s like they’re mole people who’ve never seen the sun.” –My text to my wife, Amy, to describe my co-workers’ reactions to the sudden snowstorm (barely accumulated) in downtown Portland. Bunch of uninitiateds. Here’s what you need to know about snow: it sucks.

I have some memories from my youth of Midwest snow and ice and freezing temps, but nothing too great. I remember:

1. Attempting to cross-country ski in the Sierra Nevada mountains, falling on my face several times, and coming near to frostbite.

2. Getting out of the office to do fieldwork during my first job out of college, and when I arrived at the worksite, the temperature reading on my dashboard was -17, without considering the wind-chill. Weather that cold literally crystalizes boiling water instantly when tossed in the air. Google it. I speak truth.

3. Rolling along at a safe 35 mph on my way to work, hitting black ice, spinning several 360s, almost pissing myself but lacking the ability, due to the cold, which had frozen everything, and I do mean everything, and then, because the Midwest is as flat as a pancake, coming to rest in the middle of the generous median and driving out, back onto the highway, and continuing on my way, bladder still frozen, life shortened several years.

4. Delivering papers, suddenly taking flight, landing on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and lying there, in the dark, stunned, hoping I would regain my breath before I froze to death.

5. Piling up snow so high in our driveway that it began to obscure the view from a first-floor window. This house, built in the 1920s, was set up high on its foundation. Five or six steps took you up to the porch, and another step took you into the house. When I finished with the snow pile, it was seven feet high, towering over me, catching the sun’s rays, casting sinister shadows. Its purpose, it telekinetically communicated to me, was its penchant for lying flat, compacting, and destabilizing the footing of innocent passersby (a la the previous “I remember”). I had removed it from its primary mission, and it sure looked as though it intended to seek revenge. Lucky for me, the sun intensified and passed judgment before the snow pile could summon the black magic necessary to achieve sentience.

6. Detouring and stopping overnight on a road-trip from Portland back to the Midwest because snow and ice (or the threat thereof, never got confirmation on which, but I did get a great night’s sleep in the parking lot of the Sinclair!) had closed the Laramie Pass in Wyoming.

7. Helping a QC driver get her car unstuck from a snow-bank by pushing on the rear of her vehicle. For my efforts, the spinning tires paid me by throwing a steady stream of razor-edged ice pellets into my face, the driver continuing on her way, not even a wave of thanks.

I’m telling you, snow corrupts all. Sure, you can have some fun in it, at great monetary expense, and at the literal risk of life and limb.

Why, then, when Portland gets a rare snowstorm, do Portlanders run to the windows like Mt. Hood just erupted? Like the Cascadia Subduction Zone activated and is rolling the ground like a rug being shaken out? Like a tsunami is headed our way? Like bridges are falling down? Like buildings are falling down?

We could blame the hippie culture, legalized marijuana, a hyper-sensitized populace that is often incapable of constructive dialogue in the face of conflict surrounding race, gender, structural inequality, or any other hot-from-the-blast-furnace issue of the day. Blame, however, is misplaced. In its place sits need. What need?

The answer: diversion of the senses. Aren’t we all looking for that instance of activity, that unexpected event, that fanciful piece of news that’s dropped on your head like a gush from the Ice Bucket Challenge, spurring you to action, maybe happiness, but certainly springing you upward, out of your rut, and into a new Jetstream of breath and life?

If snow is what it takes for you to look at the world with clear eyes, well, my friend, go for it.

But please pre-book the emergency room.

And stop blocking the damn hallway.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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