The Snowstorm That Wasn’t and Was, or Making Your Garden Grow

 Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes, and to add to other peoples store of it.”

Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby

The expected blizzard of 2015 did not take place in South Jersey this week. Weather forecasters kept changing the numbers. The amount of snow expected kept changing—we’re going to get a foot of snow; we’re going to get 6 to 12 inches; we’re going to get somewhere between 2 inches and 13 inches. The timing for this anticipated snowstorm kept changing, as well. First we were going to get a storm with 1 to 3 inches of snow on Monday morning, then later in the day and into the next day we’d get the “real” storm.

Based on the forecast, my husband’s school, as well as all of the schools in the area, made plans the night before to close. The governor of New Jersey declared a state of emergency, and people were not supposed to drive. When I woke up early Tuesday morning, I discovered we had received less than an inch of snow. So much for the snowstorm. But everything was quiet and still, and we had a snow day.

Not exactly a blizzard

Not exactly a blizzard

I thought about real snowstorms we had had. There was one huge blizzard when our daughters were small, and we had about two feet of snow, and more where the snow drifted. Our daughters’ school was closed for the week, and so was my husband’s. We were cocooned inside our house, and I baked lots of treats—something different every day. It was somehow relaxing knowing that we could not go anywhere.

My daughters playing in the snow many years ago.

My daughters playing in the snow many years ago.

On Tuesday, though the roads were fine later in the day, my husband and I treated the day as a “snow day.” He did some schoolwork, and I did a bit of work, too. But we also relaxed. We watched four episodes of  “Fringe” on Netflix throughout the day. I read; he napped (have I mentioned that my husband is a champion napper?). Of course, on snow days, one must cook and bake. Well, one must if you’re me. I had already made a pot of red lentil soup and homemade black bread, so I baked an apple cake.

I know for some the unnecessary snow day was a burden or a day of missed income, and I know others north of us really did have a snowstorm, but for me, the day was an excuse to slow down and relax, to not go anywhere, or follow a schedule—well, except for feeding the cats at their usual time.

We will probably get more snow at some point before the winter turns to spring, but I’m eagerly waiting for sprouts of green to appear on lawns and trees and to feel the warm sunshine upon my face and shoulders. In the meantime, I’ll delight in happiness when it comes, and appreciate unexpected pleasures. Sometimes life’s storms never materialize. Sometimes they’re followed by periods of calm. And sometimes it’s fine to just take the time to watch Netflix and bake goodies.

The word “garden” popped randomly into my head this morning, followed by this song, “Make Our Garden Grow,” the finale from Leonard Bernstein’s operetta, Candide, based on Voltaire’s novella. I love this song, and it’s possible I listened to it several times today. Here’s “Make Our Garden Grow” from the PBS version that was a favorite in our house.

“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow…
And make our garden grow.”

From Leonard Bernstein, “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide


Sometimes there’s a snowstorm, and sometimes you get an unexpected gift of a day. Sometimes you see snow, dream of gardens, and find happiness where you can. And sometimes you bake a loaf of bread.

Wheatberry Bread

Wheatberry Bread

12 thoughts on “The Snowstorm That Wasn’t and Was, or Making Your Garden Grow

  1. Oh, Merril, only you could weave quotes from Dickens, a not-quite-blizzard, and lyrics from Leonard Bernstein’s “Make our Garden Grown” and have it all make sense. Another blog friend (and Mennonite writer) posted this week on the same theme:

    At work on my memoir, learning the craft like an apprentice, I want to hurry up and get on with it. But that’s not how it works, according to a book I’m reading now The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo, which calms my racing heart. Just like reading this post! Thank you!

  2. Marian, thank you so much for your very kind words! I really appreciate them.
    I can’t wait to read your memoir. I’m certain it will be wonderful. I think I would also be a slow writer with a memoir. I will look at Shirley’s blog post, too.

  3. So, I have to know, what is black bread? I want to be at your house, next time there’s a snow storm! YUM! 🙂 I do miss snow days. The last time my kids were out of school due to weather was hurricane days! YIKES! 😀

  4. Ahh. . .Rachel, I see you need an education in Jewish/Eastern European foods. 🙂 Black Bread is a type of rye bread. Technically, there is a difference between black bread and pumpernickle, but I think what I made (the Smitten Kitchen recipe) is actually closer to pumpernickle. Think a dark, crusty rye bread. Yesterday, I baked wheatberry bread (not a Jewish bread). It’s a whole wheat bread into which I knead boiled and softened wheat berries (they look like dry seed things before you boil them).

    Having a hurricane day off is definitely not the same. You definitely can’t go outside to play in that! 🙂

  5. Wintry days and snow days just beg for comfort food and sitting by the fire – if you’re lucky enough to have a working fireplace. Even though I live in Florida, you story put me in that New York/New Jersey state of mind. Your photos only added to the nostalgia. Thank you, Merril.

  6. Ha! What fun to read this post. We had similar inspirations in our responses to the Snow Bust of 2015. It led us to nostalgia. And in your case to a wonderful day of quiet pleasures. Such a gift. Thanks for finding my post and thanks to Marian for connecting us again.

    P.S. My husband is a champion napper also. Wish I had the gift.

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