Friday, February 22, 2013

Peace and quiet, even in the city, a good reason to enjoy 12 inches of snow... the great ice storm of 2002 reminds us peace and quiet are not the same thing and at least trigger fingers were also stilled

Cutting through this white fog of silence, a cardinal. In the frozen tree by the window, he sings crisp notes of love or territory, but with less joy than a week ago when the temperature was sixty degrees. Today, it is twenty degrees and yesterday’s snow is piled up a foot deep beneath a gray sky lit by weak morning sun, hidden but luminous, so the world below feels like the inside of a fish bowl. The big burr oak and the bleached white sycamore stand nearly motionless, swaying only slightly in the sky. The blue spruce is heavy with snow, globs of it, caught in the branches top to bottom. A single junco ventures out on the blue spruce mountain peak scratching for berries.

Here, in the middle of the city, dead silence. The hum of traffic is gone. For now, no fire engines or ambulances. No small jets or propeller planes roaring overhead in landing patterns aimed at the old airport by the river. No police helicopters or rescue helicopters bound for the hospital chopping up the air. No dogs and no children. No trash trucks grumbling. Not even shovels scraping driveways and sidewalks.

The city will wake soon. A city can stand silence only so long. I’ll do the same eventually, lace up boots, pull on long underwear and heavy coat, push open the back door and take the handle of the snow shovel leaning next to it against the house. I’ll be out there soon enough, pushing snow, clearing a path down the brick sidewalk to the car, then clearing the driveway and uncovering the car – though I have no plans to go anywhere.

This morning is a bit like the morning in 2002 after the great ice storm. That morning broke just as quiet, but not so peaceful. Peaceful and quiet are not the same. That morning a large sycamore lay sprawled across the icy grass of the front yard. Power was off and no telling when it would come back on. The house was cold and getting colder. Menace has been in the air the night before. Electrical transformers were exploding – a blast of lightning in the sky then the sound of a gunshot.  Fire engines and ambulances were background noise deep into the night. More frightening was the sound of trees cracking ominously in the wind then the distant rushing noise as they crumbled in long gusts to the ground. Then, suddenly, not in the distance but in the front yard and loud as a freight train.Nothing you could call sleep arrived even into the early hours.

It was quiet that morning, not even the sound of the furnace coming on, but it was not peaceful. And, yet, even in the aftermath, the morning was strangely beautiful, brilliant sun, deep blue sky, everything, every branch, every rail, every sidewalk, every blade of grass, shimmering in ice lit from behind. And, then, the tree saws started their incessant growling up and down the block.

This morning broke with both peace and quiet. Ah… there… the first shovel scrape. Humans have arrived, their natural urge to go, to move, to dominate nature – even if there is nowhere to go to – has won. More scrapes. Now the sound of a spinning motor and, of course, the sound of spinning tires. The digging out has begun and the quiet is gone. The quiet is gone, but not the snow.

And, for at least one day, the people of Kansas City seemed at peace with each other. The last report on the Kansas City Star's homicide page was three days and two hours ago. When the headlines describe the snowstorm of 2013 as fierce, brutal, dangerous, and paralyzing, and the reports scream that everything from airports to highways are closed, take comfort. Apparently, Kansas City's itchy trigger fingers were also paralyzed -- at least for a few hours.



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