Snowbound, on purpose.

thSnow finally fell in Anchorage and we’ve had 24 hours of bliss. Not because we’re avid skiers or because we plow driveways as a side hustle. It’s because we intentionally stranded ourselves.

Only about six inches of snow fell here in West Anchorage, starting on Sunday afternoon. But each year the streets (and highway medians) fill up with people who forgot how to drive in the winter.

Thus we decided to stay home and let everyone else play bumper-cars. Although DF did have a work-related assignment that afternoon, he managed to keep it between the ditches coming and going.

Once he got home we stoked up the fireplace insert and turned off the computers. We enjoyed a long evening of piano playing (him), a New York Times crossword puzzle (me), sharing the meal prep and cleanup, listening to music, reading and talking. For a time we turned on the outside light and shut off the inside ones, the better to watch the snowflakes swirl.

He’d once mentioned the John Greenleaf Whittier poem, “Snow-Bound,” a memory of how the poet’s family endured – and enjoyed – a particularly harsh spell of winter weather. It seemed appropriate to our situation so I asked if he would read it to me. Since he couldn’t find the book that contained it, my computer got switched back on.

We discovered the actual title is “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl.” We also discovered that a room lit mostly by firelight and perfumed with supper fragrances is a perfect place for a recitation of that particular poem.

I watched the flames spin and the coals glow now red, now orange, as he read Whittier’s wistful words, dedicated “to the memory of the household it describes.” That household was a poor one in terms of money but apparently rich in love. One section is devoted to a blizzardy evening spent by the fire, at the end of which the poet’s mother set aside her sewing and

 ….her steps she stayed,

One moment, seeking to express

Her grateful sense of happiness

For food and shelter, warmth and health,

And love’s contentment more than wealth…

A day later those lines are still with me. DF and I are thankful for our life together, and I want to make sure I don’t slip back into my old 24/7 work habits.

Relax, rejuvenate, recharge, reboot

Today we did leave the house – to shovel, to bring in wood, to run a few errands – but the lovely sense of sabbath/recharging was still there. DF had today off so we listened to music, cooked, talked, joked, cuddled and generally enjoyed viewing life as something other than a time trial.

I suggested we do this again. I suggest you try it, too. Our work will be waiting for us whether or not we stop thinking about it for a day, or even for a couple of hours. Yours probably will be, too.

Shutting off the computer/smartphone/whatever means stepping away from what you feel you should do and focusing instead on what you really must do: relax, rejuvenate, recharge, reboot.

This is particularly important given that the Silly Season is creeping closer. As you’re pummeled by personal and/or social obligations, it helps to know that respite exists if you know where to look – and if you recognize its importance.

Caring for yourself

Not everyone’s positioned to take an entire day off. As a working mom I generally spent Saturdays and Sundays doing the things I couldn’t cram into the workweek evenings. If you’re living the 24/7 lifestyle, believe me when I say I understand.

Believe me, too, when I say that looking back I could have picked out hours here and there and spent them on myself – had I believed I were deserving of them.

Try this, then: Step away from the wi-fi, the children’s play dates, the professional journals, the cleaning or whatever it is that keeps you from giving yourself room to breathe. Even if all you can spare is an hour, grab those 60 minutes and make them count.  Guard them fiercely. Insist on them.

Walk, play, nap, browse in a library, write in a journal, soak in a hot bath. If you have a sweetheart, stop talking about work and family and focus on each other instead.

Sound selfish? It isn’t. It’s self-preservation. Everything you set down, even for an hour, will be waiting for you when you step back into the traces once more. But your step will be lighter for having taken the break.

Readers: How do you make time to reboot? More importantly, how do you make it stick?

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  1. Heartfelt applause for this, Donna. Well said!

    I don’t remember who said that “half an hour a day of meditation is necessary, except when we are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.” So true.

  2. Donna, first let me say that I absolutely love your city and your state. We have had the good fortune to visit Alaska twice, for a month each time and I fell in love with it instantly. If my son were closer, I’d move there in an instant. Gosh, I read the Whittier poem as a child and had forgotten about it. I’m so glad you mentioned it because now I am going to look it up and read again. Your day yesterday sounds like heaven to me. If I don’t have to drive on ice, I really like winter and spending the day like you describe seems like paradise to me. Your post was wonderful. Thank-you.

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks for your kind words, Kathy. If there’s a chance you’ll be visiting again, give me some advance notice and we’ll meet for coffee and chat.

  3. Lorna Huntley

    As soon as my husband gets home from the hospital, I’m going to declare the importance of us day. Your time sounded lovely.

    • Donna Freedman

      “The importance of us day” — I like it.
      Sorry your husband is in the hospital. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  4. very true 🙂 having cats reminds me to slow down!

  5. We don’t get snow days often here in Denver, but when we are told to stay home, I treasure every moment!! I do exactly what you do with the indoor and outdoor lights, because I love to watch the snow fall.

    Enjoy your peaceful times, as many as you can get!

  6. Maybe your true calling is writing about self-preservation. Your words were inspiring.
    I would cuddle Den but he has the flu. He is banished to the couch.

    • Donna Freedman

      Poor Den! Keep pouring down the liquids and try not to get it yourself.

  7. I only have the cat to cuddle with and she is very good at cuddling.

    I try to indulge myself with a nap when I can even though my sister says naps are overrated and a bad habit for me. Little does she know, that before I retired, I napped on the weekends. I had a horrendous commute and needed to rejuvenate. I would get a massage every Saturday and did my best to get in a nap on Saturday and Sunday.

    I tell myself now what is it to my sister if I nap? I wake up feeling better and it is the time I am away from the wifi and smartphone.

    • Donna Freedman

      I love naps. I crave naps. When I was going to school, managing an apartment building and writing three times a week for MSN Money it was the naps that got me through.
      And I agree: It’s nobody’s business but yours whether you snooze. Well, it is the cat’s business — because nobody naps better than a cat.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

    • Linda, the Wall Street Journal, of all places, recently ran a big article about how naps are crucial to improving productivity, and offered tips for getting the best nap. You (and the cat!) are on to something. 🙂

      Here’s the article: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323932604579050990895301888

  8. I almost moved to Alaska – came for weeks in every season but spring – and ultimately didn’t make that move, but the experience made it impossible to be without green places and running water. So in my late 40’s I moved out of my condo and into a little house (“that’s too much work for a single woman your age!”) 4 blocks from a river. I walk over there several times a week just to look at the water. It’s not Alaska, but just a half hour by the river can ease many of the stresses and hurts of everyday life.

    • Donna Freedman

      The sight and sound of a river, or even a creek, is very therapeutic. And I know what you mean about the green: I got tremendous enjoyment out of our garden this year, especially since we mostly planted things we could eat. It was a distinct pleasure to go out every afternoon to pick the dinner salad greens and herbs, and we’re now enjoying the fruits of our labor, as it were, in the form of the foods we canned, froze and dried. Neither the house nor the yard is huge, but they’re both a delight.
      If you visit Alaska again, please let me know. We’ll have a meet-up.

  9. Sounds absolutely blissful and thank you for reminding me I too need some down time and I will make sure I get it this coming weekend.

  10. Mirabella

    We don’t get snow days where I live in southern California, and there’s nothing remotely relaxing about earthquake days, fire season days, or civil disturbance days (thankfully, we haven’t had the latter in years). But all kidding aside, I very much appreciate what you are saying about setting aside time for yourself to simply be yourself. Virginia Woolf wrote about the importance of having “a room of one’s own” to foster creativity; you are writing about “a day of one’s own” to foster authenticity.

  11. I was laid-off 2 years ago, went back to work 2 months ago. We both miss the days of feeling as though we live in a cave filled with love and caring. I am going to work less and live more and it feels joyous. We are so blessed – 30 years later we still adore each other and prefer our company (and the dogs) to the company of anyone else… Thank you for this post.

    • Donna Freedman

      Your house sounds like our house, Theo. Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. Beautifully written. Everyone needs a time out. In fact, I’m shutting this computer down right now and relaxing with a good book!

    • Donna Freedman

      Yay you! For the past two evenings I have purposely left my computer in the other room so DF and I could watch what my nephew calls “the fire movie,” i.e., sitting in front of the fireplace insert and talking. Just started a new book but I need to take care of a ton of paperwork and slay some deadline dragons before I get back to it. The carrot and the stick.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  13. Love this post! I, too, love the thought of winter, being snug in my home with my puppy, and watching the fireplace and the snow falling. And “Snow Bound” is one of my favorite poems.

    Out of curiosity, what books do you read? Might make a good post…

    • Donna Freedman

      I don’t like most pop fiction, although I do read certain mystery writers. It’s not that I have anything against best-sellers, but they have to be well-written and so much pop stuff isn’t.
      Three recent reads all came from the giveaway pile at the public libary: “On the Black Hill” by Bruce Chatwin and “The Eye in the Door” and “Ghost Road” by Pat Barker, all of them stunningly written, and all from U.K. writers. A fourth came from my daughter: “War Crimes for the Home,” by Liz Jensen, also a Brit. Just started a fifth, Ruth Rendell’s “Adam and Eve and Pinch Me” — again, a British writer.
      Not sure why I’m on the U.K. tear, but I am. Surely there are tons of good American works waiting for me; one is in fact by an Alaskan, “The Snow Child.” It was recommended to me by DF, who has read it; he’s hanging on to his copy for me.
      Maybe this would make a good post. Stay tuned!
      Thanks for your kind words, and for leaving a comment.

      • I don’t read pop fiction either. If I do, it’s usually Rosamunde Pilcher who writes the best character sketches I have ever read or the Jack Reacher series because I love tall men (is that weird or what!).
        I just finished “7 an experimental mutiny against excess” by Jen Hatmaker (her name intrigued me). I also bought (at a library sale) a collected works of great American writers…poets, short stories, essays, plays. It’s a huge tome, and true to this post, I expect to read it while snuggled down this winter.

  14. Sounds like love, and think that’s just lovely 🙂


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