fb-pixelIn Boston’s snowpocalypse, some find inspiration - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

In Boston’s snowpocalypse, some find inspiration

Photographer Mary Kocol’s backyard view of the blizzard in Somerville on Jan. 27. Mary Kocol

Mary Kocol


I’m inspired by snowstorms. That doesn’t mean I enjoy shoveling, traffic jams, and cold, but I find snowstorms visually stunning. The transformation of the urban landscape is amazing: backyard boundaries erased, colors and light falling onto snow from dawn to dusk. The wildness of the weather is another thing I try to capture. I have a roof deck overlooking several backyards, which provides an intriguing view of relatively open space in tightly packed Somerville. One fun thing to do is make snow candles: Dig a hole in the snow about 1 foot deep to protect from wind, and add a small (votive) candle. The hole can be carved into shapes or letters.


"View Out the Window."Franklin Einspruch

Franklin Einspruch


When that big storm hit us in late January, I decided that I was going to spend the day “live-drawing” the storm. This was partly a goof on all the live-tweeting and live reporting about it, partly an excuse to spend the day drawing, and partly an artistic challenge. The self-imposed rules were that I could only use black and white gouache, applied with brushes without any preliminary pencil drawing. Since the brightest white is that of the unpainted paper, I realized that I was really drawing everything except the snow, but that only forced me to look at the snow even harder. Also, the black mixed with white and the black mixed with water produce entirely different grays, and I pushed to see how much variety of color I could pull out of the combinations. I continued as the next storms came and went. Now I have two dozen drawings and counting, and the effect of the snow on the city is still grabbing my attention.

Jill McDonough


Boston: Love it or leave it. Or, you know — try to leave, wait an hour for the shuttle, give up and go back home. What to do with this enforced idleness? Write poems about snow. After you finish shoveling your sidewalk. And signing a petition to support the T. Then write poems. Unless you need to watch every episode of “The Golden Girls,” or “Scandal,” then rock yourself to sleep in a corner. Wearing week-old sweatpants, wool socks, and a moth-eaten afghan. I understand.


Franklin Einspruch’s "Snow Throw."Franklin Einspruch

Dr. Li Shovels!

It was the winter I lost the best

job, and the truck broke, and the ceiling

fell in. Winter of debt, injector pumps, horse

hair plaster dusting everything we owned. It was

the day I got stuck in the square, wasted

day I could’ve spent at home with plaster,

joint tape, perforated ceiling washers,

compound, drywall screws. I love

drywall screws, an inch

and five eighths, five pound boxes.

Dark smudge on my fingers, pulling plaster

home to lath.

February: already sick

of salt, winter’s banks of dirty snows,

picking my way across obscured curbs, slick

streets, I heard your voice

via voicemail, a message

reporting you’d shoveled the driveway, pulled in the truck.

I love you, and I’ve been thinking. I think you

should buy some champagne, because we’re rich.

Rich. In seconds, I stopped fantasizing about calling

in sick. I bought Cardullo’s cheapest sparkling wine,

and soon I had my students laughing, writing

wintertime haiku:

Dr. Li shovels!

Wow! Moving the Great Walls here.

Miracles in snow.

Backhoe in Snow, Boston

First Fall, black and white gouache on paper, 11 x 7 inches. Franklin Einspruch

When the backhoe got stuck in the snow on our street,


another backhoe came to help. Then the little buddy backhoe

got stuck, too. Traffic piling up behind them, a mailtruck,

ten cars. Nobody honks: too tired. What’re you gonna do?

the drivers shrug. The snow falls, still falling, an always

already of snow in the rising dark. Our mailman, our hero,

helps push, everybody shoveling, doing their part, until

both backhoes lurch forward to cheers, our suppertimes.

Snow boots go on and on, off and on, then off. We hire

the neighbor kid, joke about Belize. We tease the guy across

the street about his half-assed pile, squint up at the roof’s

death-swords of ice, come in for hot showers, hot chocolate,

bourbon, the milk and bread that panic bought. Back in the

before time, back when anything got to us. When we could

still feel. We move — so slow! — through Brady-sized drifts,

Gronks and Gronks of snow. We recite Dave Epstein, weatherman

poet, close read every tweet. Marvel at the physics of snow

banks, shovel-carved alleys, snow mazes, snow sofas, snow walls.

Watch a time lapse video of the snow:

Jill McDonough is director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston.