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.