A Rare Lowcountry Wonderland
Three inches of snow flattened under my hiking shoes as I crunched through the road of my apartment complex. Pudgy flakes stuck to my eyelashes and hair and scarf. I closed my fingers around the HotHands hand warmers inside my gloves, unused treasures I found inside my bathroom cabinet from my snowboarding days. A guy and girl packed handful after handful of fluff into a tiny snowman outside of their apartment building. We smiled at each other. “This is so weird,” I said. “Where even are we right now?”
The guy stood up, gloves full of snow. “Not at work!”
These are all pretty standard winter weather scenes for a lot of states but here, in Charleston, SC, a few nights of 30-something degree temperatures and a heavy sweater is about as Jack Frost as we get. Last Wednesday our city saw up to six inches of snow in some areas—the most snow in a single day since 1989 and the third-highest snowfall amount on record. Businesses closed for two days, we had to borrow plows from other states (just kidding but probably), and people slid through the frozen asphalt on kayaks and water tubes and boogie boards behind golf carts. I mean, it doesn’t get more Charleston than that. Throw in the fact that we saw seven straight days below 40-degrees (the longest stretch ever recorded) and seven straight mornings below 25-degrees and, well, we had ourselves a proper winter.
I’m a born-and-brought-up Mid-Atlantic woman who saw snow most every Maryland winter. As a kid, I watched the salt trucks lumber through our neighborhood the night before a snowstorm hit and loved waking up to fresh powder on the lawn. My siblings and I shoveled our driveway and launched snowballs and hauled sleds up the hill at our elementary school. When I moved to South Carolina six and a half years ago, I learned that some people in the state had never laid eyes on snow, that Walmart didn’t stock sleds in the winter, and that I wouldn’t have use for an ice scraper and a shovel. Except last week. Last week I could’ve used both of those things.
While a lot of residents, especially Northerners-turned-Southerners who migrated to escape bitter winters, moaned about the white stuff everywhere, I ran outside every 15 minutes and squealed over the first snowfall I’ve seen in a while. I loved it. Loved. It. “This is MAGIC,” I texted a friend. “Or global warming, but we’ll go with the first one.”
As much as I (mostly) adore my balmy island life and my year-round proximity to the Atlantic, I miss the evolution of seasons. I miss the way a good snowfall can bring a city to a halt for a hot minute and slow everyone’s freaking roll. Between the worsening traffic, the swarm of development, and the stress of trying to keep up in a city that now caters to the wealthy, Charleston is sadly very different from the coastal community I fell in love with. Slow living bleaches out more each year to make way for the busy patterns of suburbia. Maybe that’s just the opinion of a jaded Yankee, but I’m sure at least a handful of natives would agree. And personally, the last couple of years have done a number on my affection for the city, both because of shitty things that happened to me and shitty choices I made.
Sometimes what I need is a change of season and scenery to shed the former and take up the now. Sometimes I need nature to intervene, to cover up the busy so I can set my heart on the fruitful again.
On Monday I swung out of work to find the snow mostly melted. The outside temperature on my Toyota’s dash read 58-degrees and, as I sat at the intersection of Spring and Lockwood, water poured from the steel beams of the WestEdge construction site. To everyone’s relief, the Charleston International Airport reopened after five days of canceled flights (because you guys, the Lowcountry can handle a Category 5 hurricane like a boss, but give us any precipitation at 31 degrees and we lose our ever loving minds). The city resumed its usual pace and customary coastal weather. But that brief, weird bit of magic served as the emotional enzyme I needed to track forward into a fresh, untouched year.