The bags of duct tape and plastic sheeting lie in the basement closet alongside the two big vats of peanut butter. It's been a few days since they went in next to the dog-eared boxes of Monopoly and Clue, but still you can't help a little startled response every time you come upon them, as if you've just discovered your grandmother's heroin stash. Maybe you'll get used to it.

Upstairs, the TV keeps pounding the same dreadful rhythm. Code Orange. Hans Blix. Tanks at Heathrow. During lunch hour, the boys at work play a morbid new game, Name the Scenario: What's the easiest and most symbolically destructive target for terrorists seeking to strike America?

And then it snows.

Not mere flurries, not one of those sissy rush-hour panic dustings, but an authentic shut-down-the-town dump. This one obliterates the azalea shrubs and threatens to erase the tops of the mailboxes. It makes dogs insane with joy, and the neighbors just a little friendlier.

It comes over a three-day weekend, Presidents' Day weekend, so there's even less point in trying to fight it. The front hallway becomes a battlefield of boots, mittens, gloves, snow pants, hats and stripped-off woolens. There's enough coffee and hot chocolate to make it through and, with any luck, cinnamon buns. Lord knows there's enough peanut butter.

Snowstorms don't do metaphors, so far as we know. But it makes you wonder. All the perfect clean refracting light outside, all the still and muffled quiet around us. Is this God's comfort, His chill pill?

Someone once said that the weather is what people talk about when they have nothing to talk about.

Thank heaven we have the weather to talk about.

Let it snow: Intrepid visitors wend their way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.