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There’s a certain quiet that comes over NYC in a big snow storm. It’s a different quality than the early morning or middle of the night quiet; different even from a blackout-quiet.
In a blizzard, the city becomes softer. Its sharp edges and piercing sounds are replaced with a delicate feel and a soothing tone. It transforms from a center of doing to a bastion of being. The pulse of its heartbeat slows as it surrenders to the will of Mother Nature.
A blizzard evokes the city’s feminine energy: embracing, allowing, being. But no less powerful.
This was Union Square this morning, as I carved a path in the snow on my way to the gym. A drastically different vibe for an early Saturday morning in Union Square. Typically I see a lot of action, even in the early hour that I go to the gym, as the farmers are setting up in the Union Square Greenmarket.
Today, it was stillness and silence. The sidewalks hadn’t yet been shoveled and only a handful of brave pedestrians were out, making our own path through the snow.
Even the gym, that temple of doing, had a more subdued vibe. The gym was crowded (I’m not the only one who goes every day), yet relaxed. There was an air of “whatever you do today is a bonus. You already trudged your way through the snow.”
After the gym I stopped at Whole Foods, typically a center of cacophony and chaos. Last night, there was a line just to get inside. Today, it was busy, but controlled. People paused to say “excuse me” as they tried to pass each other in the narrow aisles.
On most days the checkout line feels weighted down by the air of anxiety and tension. Impatient shoppers fall into a trance as they immerse in a world inside their phones, scrolling Facebook and Instagram while they slowly move up to the lead spot in their selected lane. Once there, they shift from side to side, tapping their feet in frustration while they wait for their checkout station number to be assigned.
Today, the air was light with camaraderie and conversation. The waiting time seemed to fly by as strangers engaged with each other in a shared experience.
Back out on the streets, vehicles and pedestrians looked out for each other, recognizing that the city’s pathways are a shared resource.
As I navigated the one block walk between Whole Foods and my apartment building, I noticed how even under the snow’s blanket of stillness and silence, the city feels more alive than ever. It pulses with the life of human beings, present to their experience and to each other, conversing and collaborating.
The city, and its inhabitants, sparkle in the light of the snow. They radiate a gently beauty. They come alive.
This is NYC in a blizzard. This is NYC at its best.
Softer. Allowing. Embracing. Connected. Human. More nuanced. Even the doing takes on an air of being.
It is a quiet, yet powerful, New York.
As much as I don’t like the cold weather, is how much I love a NYC blizzard.
Back in my apartment, I watch the snow swirl in mid-air, and I wonder:
What if we treated every day like a snow day?