Welcome to my universe

The snow starts after dark on Sunday night. It flicks against the house, like a million goodbye kisses to your normal life.

School has already been canceled. We settle back, pour a glass of wine and watch another episode of The Mighty Boosh, a show with a talking moon, a shaman and the Cockney Victorian Eel Man, of whom the English daughter can do a spot-on impersonation. (“Oh, Oi’ll shake yew up. Do yew loik ee’lls?”)

Oh sure, a few awkward viewing moments here and there, but so much better than Disney. And I’d rather they imitate the moon or the Eel Man than your typical sitcom teenager.

Splat, tap, tap goes the snow.

Monday morning everything outside is carpeted white. My daughters are released into an alternate universe with no cars. The kids on the street build snowmen and forts. We stand around and chat with our neighbors, who are physicists, who credit the albedo of the driveway, its reflective property, with its potential for meltiness. But what of the roads?

The albedo of the moon is seven percent, which is lower than you might expect, he says. I suspect the Boosh moon has a higher albedo.

Years and years ago a science teacher of mine who was later a colleague speculated that an interesting cross-curricular course would combine science and poetry. I regret that I never got to co-explore this with her. Physics is rife with elegant models for interaction; replace the word particle with person. A very popular course at my college was Physics for Poets. I don’t know what the physicists took away—I didn’t know any—but I can tell you that the poets were raiding the metaphor cabinet.

I have been writing something for work that describes a collaboration which releases more energy than the sum of its parts.

“That would be fusion,” my neighbor says, scooping up snow and making a collision of snowballs to illustrate. He explains that the heavier elements, things that are in our blood, like iron, are not original to our universe, but come from other, subsequent explosions elsewhere.

The snowfall we experienced produced claps of thunder and thunder, it turns out, produces antimatter.

It is just cold enough to keep the snow and ice the roads. We commence a third day of being snowbound. Our universe is the winding slope of our street, but within itself it expands. I visit our across the street neighbor and shovel her path. (I had never shoveled a path before, I had never been in her house.) I meet the visiting, now trapped, grown daughter of another neighbor. She teaches the kids how to sled. We throw impromptu dinner parties. How does one describe the expansion of matter within the simultaneous constriction of its environment?

The weather forecast for the weekend has temperatures rising to the 40s so this will all melt. The end is in sight, as is our supply of milk. The particles of us will be freed from our icy driveways. The children, who have spent whole days outside, will be returned to homework and houses, in a redistribution of atoms which may, as so many things do, have its analog elsewhere in nature.

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