So much for my attempt to serve as a Saint Bernard.

Staring at my frost-covered legs splayed on the ground, the toes of my boots pointing to the gray sky, I could not help but laugh. I had attempted to deliver a Thermos of hot coffee but slipped up - or, more accurately, slipped down - having lost my footing while walking on a luge track for a sidewalk.

I had thought traversing that slick area would be a piece of cake. But with nothing between my body and the ground I fell like an undercooked souffle, utterly unable to resist the sudden invitation, by laws of physics, to sit.

Often when people order a beverage with ice smoothly, they ask for it to be "on the rocks." Considering how much of Oregon recently found itself sheeted in slipperiness, my day - and that of many others - was off to a rocky start.

I deserved my silly fall. Pride cameth before it. In terms of karma I had been skating on thin ice, rolling my eyes incredulously at how most Oregon residents struggle to cope with winter storms. I smacked my forehead with my palm when I heard how many schools had closed - this time for reasons other than funding.

But I plead for understanding, even as I acknowledge how I rejoiced in an unexpected and heartily welcome day off work - a "snow day." As a boy raised in Colorado, where in the thick of winter gargantuan piles of snow were often par for the course (and road crews and equipment were readily prepared to respond), bad weather had to be downright epic before people would close schools and businesses.

A snow day? How rare. How grand.

The other day I was in Portland (and fortunately not trapped at the airport) when I had the glorious invitation of another snow day, and I embraced it. I basked in the glow of enforced "at-homeness."

My admiration and sympathy intensified for those who needed to continue to work under the rough conditions - police, postal service workers, my media brethren, doctors and other vital service providers, such as video store clerks.

In the thick of such conditions, ice knocked mass transit off its feet and even vehicles with chains on their tires shimmied and faltered like unskilled imposters at the Winter Olympics. I gained a new respect for the safety-conscious, respect-what-Mother-Nature-sends-you attitude espoused everywhere.

"If you don't need to drive, stay home. Keep warm. Take it easy."

I'd long known that attitude was wise regarding Oregon roads in particular, worrying less about the hazards of truly wintry weather than drivers utterly unaccustomed to it.

Best of all was a miniature outing - on foot, of course - to a nearby park. Dogs bounded into play, and people did, too. A man pulled his 3-year-old daughter on a makeshift sleigh fashioned from a plastic bag, as many local stores had sold out of sleds and things used as substitutes, such as plastic garbage can lids. My wife plopped onto a hillside to make a snow angel, and we engaged in more than one snowball fight.

Truth be told - and this is not because of my lousy aim - they were more like snowball skirmishes. This particular brand of snow did not compact well. Instead, we discovered we could lift the frozen top layer of snow in little shingles, which we could toss like Frisbees and skip across crusty snow like shards of flint across a summer pond.

Here and there we could also use the surface like a miniature ice rink or ski slope, schussing past the trees with little more than our boots, nerves and a sense of balance (or what others might call in me a sense of imbalance).

In short, an afternoon of outdoor frolic in the cold outdoors, followed by hot chocolate with marshmallows inside, saluted some of my favorite snow days as a kid. How rare. How grand.

As my little fall reminded me, pride is a slippery slope and we mustn't get too presumptuous about our abilities to cope with ice and snow. But if we embrace opportunity, we might just find icing on the cake.

Brad Bolchunos, who still fancies himself a fairly good downhill skier and shoe-schussing skater, hopes that his collapse the other day will not offend sure-footed Saint Bernards - and he insists it was an ice-o-lated incident.


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