17 Things to Do on a Snow Day

Image1. Check the college’s weather hotline and confirm that classes have been cancelled.

2. E-mail students with directions for the next class meeting. Reassure them that spring will come (this isn’t the first cancellation of the semester), and wish them a joyous day.

3. Survey the landscape and begin shoveling.

4. Take a break to visit with your neighbor, after wading to the middle of the street. Compliment each other’s regalia: she’s wearing a jaunty beret with a pompom; you’re wearing – for which you fervently thank your son – those ear warmers with the band that fits around the back of your head (no hat hair for you, even the morning after a blizzard). When ice crystals have completely lined the inside of the scarf you’ve pulled up over your face, it’s time to stop talking and go back to shoveling.

5. Take another break and start a pot of soup. Check with your husband (who is still shoveling) to see if he wants vegetable soup with beef or vegetarian vegetable. Either way, the base will be the same: take the large can of peeled tomatoes that you’ve kept in the pantry for just this moment, puree them in the blender, and combine with 8 cups of water and one chopped onion. For soup-with-beef, add one pound of cubed meat. For meatless soup, add one can of stewed tomatoes. Simmer for two hours; then add vegetables (celery, carrots, corn, green beans, kidney beans—your choice), eggless egg noodles (1 cup, taking a moment to appreciate the paradox), and one diced potato. Bring to a boil and then simmer for another 20 minutes.

Image6. Make a cup of peach tea and read a novel that isn’t even remotely connected to any of the classes you’re teaching this semester—in this case, Nevada Barr’s Winter Study, which seems perfect for today.

7. Talk on the phone to your younger daughter, who is flying back to the states from Italy next week. Review flight details and discuss alternative plans for snow emergencies.

8. Talk on the phone to your older daughter, who is also a teacher and who is having her own snow day.

9. Remember your new year’s resolution to use snow days constructively, and clean out one dresser drawer. Find and discard scraps of ribbon; find the watch that you bought on a summer vacation in Rhode Island several years ago.

10. Check e-mail. Answer three students who didn’t read your earlier reassuring e-mail. Ignore a missive with an attachment containing committee work. Do check out two sites with shoe sales.


11. Shovel the front steps. Pause, again, to admire the snow on the trees.

12. Put the soup, which is finished, on the back burner, and go next door to your neighbor’s for a glass of wine.

Image13. Back home, serve the soup with a salad and Bisquick drop biscuits for dinner. Ask your husband if he remembers the biscuits you used to make in the dorm. You and your friend Donna were famous for your late-night biscuit fests, which were open to anyone who was still awake.

14. Organize notes for next week’s classes on the memoir and trauma.

15. Read some poems by Gary Snyder.

16. Write in your journal: took pictures of snow on trees; made soup; learned, from reading Nevada Barr’s novel, three interesting facts about wolves; found missing watch that made me think of the little town next to Narragansett Bay and the restaurant with the deck where we ate lunch (the waiter told us that the state motto of Rhode Island is “Hope”).

17. Check the weather reports and the campus hotline to see if tomorrow will be another snow day.


Carolyn Foster Segal teaches creative writing at Cedar Crest College and is a contributor to the Observer column of The Chronicle of Higher Ed.