The covidtide winter was already hard, and then schools started doing away with snow days in favor of digital school. I’m at Breaking Ground defending the snow day and its power to interrupt our overscheduled, strained routines.
Slack is a necessary part of life, both for the individual and for the community. In Prayer as a Political Problem, Fr. Jean Daniélou observes that prayer and silence are becoming luxury goods. He writes, “There is a speeding up of tempo which makes it more difficult to find the minimum of freedom on which a minimum life of prayer depends. . . . Shall we say that the life of prayer can be possible only for those who are able to take advantage of [the shelter of monastic life] and thus restrict it to only a small part of humanity?”
Daniélou wrote in 1967, when he saw people flee to the movie theaters as the only refuge a person might find from the “never-ending barrage of demands from outside himself.” Today, they remain one of the only spaces we can expect the requirement (and thus permission) to turn off our phones. A storm can make the same demand: a power outage, a snowed-in driveway, that requires us, and thus allows us, to say no to outside obligations.
Unlike a weekend, a snow day arrives as an unexpected windfall—a blank day in the calendar that we haven’t had time to fill up with appointments. As a child, I spent one snow day covering my bedroom ceiling with constellations of glow-in-the-dark stars. Another was spent sculpting tiny Quidditch figures, with rings pressed into the players’ backs, so I could suspend the whole team on fishing wire. A game, frozen in time, in the space given to me by the frost outside.