Tuesday, March 6, 2018

An Incoming Snowstorm

Yesterday, with a big snowstorm promised, I rushed to get through some errands. It was starting to snow, the gritty sort that stings your face.

When the temperature hovers around freezing, we get the gritty kind. This is sometimes preceded by freezing rain then sloppy snow as the temperature drops. As the temperature continues to fall, the snow becomes drier and lighter. Towards 0°F we get the fluffy, dry kind that squeaks underfoot.

I'd read that indigenous people in the far north have over fifty words for snow. These days I tend to mistrust everything I read, so I started Googling on my phone. A Washington Post headline shouted "There really are 50 Eskimo words for ‘snow’." This got me suspicious as "Eskimo" is a controversial term, best avoided.

I searched further for articles that raised doubts about the fifty-word claim. I learned the Aleut language is actually polysynthetic. What we would call words are groups of dynamically created syllables, forming an infinite-word vocabulary. It is our misunderstanding of the Aleut concept of language that makes us impose word structures on groups of Aleut syllables.

These thoughts filled my head as I jumped on and off public transit, working through my errands.
 I landed back home safely before the Big Snow Dump.

From our apartment I looked across Gold Medal Park. Stone Arch Bridge and the Mississippi were fading; the Guthrie Theater was becoming increasingly impressionist. (See photo at the top of this post.)

A downtown friend emailed me to ask if I'd like to walk the skyways with her in the morning.
Skyways cross streets and go right through buildings.
Minneapolis has eleven miles of skyways that present downtown Minneapolis as more of a shopping mall/office complex than an urban place. I once attempted to walk the entire system in one day, but gave up after an hour:
"I couldn't stand any more of this sensory deprivation. Everything was so clean, so comfortable, the carpets were soft under my feet, everybody looked professional like they had good jobs. It was stultifying."
Needless to say, I prefer to walk the city streets, as does my friend. However, an indoor walk, distracted by a lovely conversation, sounded so much better than the alternative. Sliding on icy sidewalks and wading through huge snow-melt puddles at intersections did not appeal. I have my limits.
Philip Johnson's Crystal Court (completed 1972), viewed from a skyway.
Note: I took the skyway and the Crystal Court photos while walking with my friend the day after the snowstorm (March 5, 2018). 

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