A Snowy Day in Portland
Weather in Portland, Oregon runs on the mild side–if temperatures drop below freezing we all complain. And even though Portland is pretty far north (47ºN Latitude) and in typical years we can see tens of feet of snow in the Cascade Range, snow is rare here on the valley floor. Because significant snowfall is so uncommon-the last was in 2008–most municipalities don’t own snow removal equipment.
So when we get snow, the normal workaday world stops. And a curious thing happens–people come out of their homes and spend time with their kids and neighbors on the streets. I would have taken this for granted when I was growing up–every hill would be covered with sledding, shouting kids and many of their parents. Of course, the streets were full of kids playing most of the time they weren’t in school.
Why should it take an “emergency” to experience community?
Maybe a clue is that my 7-year old friend took a lot of persuading to go into the street with his sled. And always kept a look out for cars. He’s been taught that streets are dangerous, even the quiet residential one where we both live. I recall feeling that I and my friends owned the streets. We would stare down drivers who dared interrupt our games. When streets–once the place of social interaction of all kinds–become dangerous and taboo places, then civil culture suffers greatly. A snowy day lets us see what we have lost.