It’s a tricky thing, loving the Northeast. The weathermen and the San Diego-ans all condition us against it. The Northeast has . . . winter. Weather is “bad.” Snow is “bad.” Cold is “bad.”
When I lived in San Francisco in the mid-90s, and again when I spent four months in the Bay Area last summer and fall, people expressed frank incredulity that I might consent, let alone prefer, to go back East.
Snow. If Fairfield County gets hammered by a blizzard, but we only get two feet of snow compared to three feet east of here, or more than that even in Boston, I’m jealous. Yep. Jealous. OK, maybe just envious.
When I lived in California, I mourned every snowstorm and bitter cold snap I missed. When I lived in Detroit, I mourned the storms I missed in my homeland, the Finger Lakes. When I’m east, I barely think of California. And when I do, I can’t even imagine it. Mind you, when I’m there, I am aware of and immerse myself in its spectacular beauty and resonance. But I can leave it. Meanwhile, I can’t get the Northeast out of my cells.
I know I’m supposed to, everyone is supposed to, adore, lust for, revel in, and lord over the sun, color, light, and negative ions (read: positive) of the West Coast. Yet — and I can’t explain this, even while I’ve excused it over the decades — it leaves me flat.
Snow and cold thrill me. I’m not exaggerating, and I haven’t chosen my term lightly. I mean thrill, elation, bliss. I love to cocoon against the elements. As long as I’ve been out in them long enough, and worked hard enough in them (shoveling, bringing in wood, hiking, cross-country or downhill skiing, skating), to merit that coziness. I love to be so chilled to the bone that only the trifecta of a hot bath, warm food, and sitting by a fire can bring me back to life. Then I may deliquesce.
It’s not for everyone. But it’s also not plain habituation. The non-birder sister lives in the South. She struggled to like skiing as a kid, lugging boots and skis across frozen parking lots in sheer misery. She went to college in North Carolina (and then finished her last two years, improbably, in the northern portion of North New York State, in the northern part). She moved to Georgia (after, improbably, living in snow belt Rochester, NY). (OK, she’s no wimp.)
I’m not just used to it, though. I love it. I love my chickadees and juncos. I love cold, gray light. I love dry, bracing cold. I don’t just like it. I love it.
Me too! When I was admonished by my kids not to shovel yesterday (being too worn out from moving boxes, vacuuming and a major housecleaning) I was sad. As I prepared dinner I listened to them huff and puff and scrape outside. And i listened for the unmistakable sound of snow voices.
Voices are different after a new snow. They get higher, louder and clearer. And there is an unmistakable resonance that exudes joy. Joy in connecting to a life force that is able to remind us who we are and where we fit in relation to the planet with just one breathtaking, blustery snow storm; a life force that was painted into their glowing cheeks when they staggered back inside. So I kissed them.
Your cousin loves the winter, too, Susan. After 22 years in southern California, I was nervous about my return to the seasons that I had, for those same amount of years, claimed to miss so much. Now in northern Michigan, and in the middle of my 3rd winter, I am settled with it. I, too, embrace the crispness, and the blinding white when the sun is out and snow blankets everything. I love the way I can see things beyond and through the trees; things that are hidden by the lush leaves of summer. The bareness of winter allows for a clarity not possible in the other seasons. With the stripping away of so much, not everyone can see that what remains is lush in its own right.
Yes! I feel like the clothes have come off the trees and the curtains have gone up in the neighborhoods. “Lush in its own right.” Amen.
Some people just don’t get it! Walk outside on a bright sunny day after a big snowfall. Listen to the silence. Feel the cold air wake your lungs. Fall backwards into a big pillow of white and feel the warm, muffled stillness.
Dear Andy, Indeed, some people don’t. But, more and more people do, and that is the beginning of our new Golden Age. Thanks for being part of it with your poetic and evocative description. ~Susan