Today, to my great surprise, a genuine snow storm hit Paris. I heard about it on the radio before I bothered looking out the window, and then hastily changed clothes to jeans and sneakers, the better to brave the elements and the slippery sidewalks.
I waited almost a half an hour on the frigid train platform, waiting for the train from Saint Lazare whose ETA kept jumping back by five or ten minutes while I wasn't watching the information screen. Paris today was caught in a mass-transit perfect storm: the RER A commuter train had been on strike for a week, with only one train out of two during rush hour and none the rest of the day. Métro drivers had just gone on strike as well, in solidarity with their RER colleagues, I assumed, or perhaps to finish up last-minute Christmas shopping (online or on foot, one assumes). Every other mode of transport was halted or thrown severely off-schedule by the snow. The roads were even worse for car commuters: my boss sent an e-mail at around 1 o'clock to let us know that after advancing approximately 10 kilometers in three hours, he gave up and returned home, where he would be taking the day off.
I'd made plans to go for a run at lunch, but as I picked my way down the slushy steps from the Saint-Germain-en-Laye RER station I decided I was nuts. Sure, I used to run through snow and sub-zero temperatures in Boston, but I was older and wiser now, right? But once inside my warm, nearly deserted office, I said hello to my colleague and running partner, one of the few people who'd managed to make the trek this morning.
"So, at lunch, what are you doing?" he asked.
"Uhm, I dunno... I mean, it isn't too reasonable to run, is it?"
"I don't know," he said with a dare in his voice. I remembered that he's Breton, and born to laugh at the elements.
"Well, when I used to live in Boston I ran in snow all the time..." I decided. "If you're crazy enough, then I'm crazy enough."
"Let's go, then!"
Two hours later, our footprints were among the very first through the freshly fallen snow in the Forêt de Saint Germain. A hawk swooped through the trees above us, and a small flock of bullfinches settled like leaves on the ground. It was real snow, several inches deep even on the path, not the slushy gray soup of Paris' streets that shrug off winter as if it were an insult. The snow brought with it the still, velvet silence that I used to love in snow-covered Massachusetts forests.
The snow stopped falling in the afternoon, and the streets were left wet and bare. I left work at five o'clock, climbed aboard a sluggish RER that was resentfully crawling its way back underground. The Métro line 2 was late and packed with people, and I held onto my backpack tight and tried to make myself as small as possible under my big winter hat. As I crossed the square between our apartment and the Métro station, I smiled at a mother and daughter scraping up icy snowballs from the corners of flowerbeds and hurling them at each other, doubled over with laughter.