We got the first real snowfall of the season last week. I was incredibly excited about it. I love to see the beauty of the snow-laden branches of the trees, the pristine appearance of the fields, and the lack of lanes and lines on the roads I have to travel to work.
OK, not so much the last part.
I do truly love the first glance at the world as it appears under freshly fallen snow. Each time it seems pure and clean, and I find it to be immeasurably beautiful. At least until boots tramp through it, allowing mud to seep into the snow. And also until the melting and freezing creates ice that crashes from the roof to the ground below. And like I mentioned above, until I have to drive in it.
Friday morning, I left 15 minutes early to give myself extra time. I drove slowly. I left additional room between my car and the vehicle in front of me. And it still was very nearly not enough precaution.
About five miles from home, there had already been an accident. Members of our local fire departments were already in the road with lights and flares, trying to direct traffic. They were very challenging to see, in part due to the early hour, and in part due to the heavy snow that was still falling.
I know they were hard to see because about four-and-three-quarters of a mile from home, traffic began to tap their brakes and I couldn’t see why.
I followed suit, but I didn’t slow.
I immediately began to slide, so I let off the brakes. I tapped again and slid again. It became obvious that despite the extra room I had left, I was not going to stop before hitting the truck in front of me. My choices were clear: go into a ditch or the center of the road.
Glancing into the lane for oncoming traffic, I saw none and decided to steer toward the open road. As soon as I had committed, I saw a vehicle coming down the hill toward me. It was obvious that they would not be able to stop either, so I began to steer back toward my own lane.
When we all came to a stop, we were three abreast in the road.
It was super-scary, but from that vantage point I could see the firemen around the bend.
When it was safe to do so, I backed up and got back into my own lane. I slowed down even further, left even more space between me and the vehicle in front of me, and accepted the idea that, even after leaving early, I might arrive late to work.
It took me twice as long as usual to get there. Still, I was safe and generally unscathed.
And by the time I arrived – barely on time, but not late – the sun was up and I could see just how beautiful the trees looked with all of the snow covering their branches.