Snow: the accidental incentive to carfree living:)

Don’t laugh. I know the snow that we’re getting here in Portland is not, in the scheme of things, very much snow at all. But for a city where it rarely snows and sticks, it’s pretty darn exciting.

Portland snow(getting buried!)

snow--really(Incredulous. But psyched)

Snow that sticks around for a bit is pretty awesome, for many reasons. My favorite, though, is the way it transforms public space. Snow is the great democratizer: all of a sudden, the definitions between road, sidewalk, lawn, path, public, private are erased, all blanketed by the same beautiful white.

Division Street snow(without the stop sign, hard to tell where the street starts)

And I think it’s that magical transformation of the world that encourages everyone to get outside.

It’s possible that Portland has more people than average who like to take advantage of unusual circumstances to go out and play (this may, in fact, be one reason I love Portland so much). And something abnormal like this not only brings out all those people, but also fundamentally alters the landscape.

The pictures of cars up there? All parked. As I’ve walked around the world for the last two days–and let me tell you, I’ve done a lot of walking:)–it has been so quiet. The very few cars that drive past make a muffled whoosh over the snow instead of the normal roar. But really, it seems like no one is driving.

Instead, there are people skiing, walking, jogging, biking, walking their dogs, sledding even down the middle of the streets. (Not that the streets look that different from the sidewalks, of course, or the yards, with all that snow.) Parks like Mt Tabor and Laurelhust turn into giant snow playgrounds. Neighbors you would never expect it from dig up their cross-country skis and slide right off their porches, out to explore.

Mt Tabor in the snow(with all its hills, Mt Tabor has been a super popular sled-ski-snowboard spot:)

I don’t know that this would keep up if the snow lasted more than a few days. As people got used to it, they’d probably start to venture forth in their cars again, start being more annoyed than enchanted with the wintery wonderland that makes things so much slower, softer, peaceful. But for now, I love that the world and the streets are full of people, people who you can smile at and at make eye contact with, people who move at the same speed as you, people hidden behind layers of fleece and wool rather than metal and motors.

People may not be giving up their cars for any reason than that they want to go play in the snow–like I said, the accidental incentive to being carfree–but it sure is nice when everyone wants to be outside:)

(more snow pictures here)

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