The Relativity of Winter

Going to school in Virginia, I built up this impression of myself, an image that coming from the brutal winters of New England, handling winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains was nothing. To be clear, winter in Blacksburg was rough. The Drillfield in the middle of campus was a giant wind tunnel, making the trek across campus to class an exercise in trying to get up a short, icy slope with massive wind bursts blowing you the other way. The temperature, often hovering around freezing, lead to mixes of snow and rain that changed rapidly to slush and ice.

Winter in Blacksburg was tough, but it was short and it was, definitively, nothing like a New England winter.

Or so I told myself.

Then I came back to live just north of Boston and, in the years since, rapidly began to wonder if I was ever that tough. The cold ate at me in ways I never remembered. Whereas I used to love the prospect of snow, and having a day off from school, I now dreaded the idea that my city would declare a snow emergency, leaving me to have to find a place to park my car, and then trudge back and forth to it to shovel it out and make my way to work.

The occasional light winters with only a couple of snow storms that melted away rapidly were a joy, and made me wonder if I had lost my New England seasonal toughness. Maybe I was better equipped for warmer climates.

Everything is relative.

The winter of 2015 is going to go down in history as probably the snowiest on record for the Boston area. It’s rarely been above freezing for the last 4 weeks, and there’s only been a handful of days that didn’t contain some snow. Navigating the city by car or on foot is treacherous and takes three times as long as normal, simply because there’s nowhere for the snow to go.

The difference is none of us seem to care any more. Or don’t care about the precipitaton and cold, at least. More snow? I just need to figure out where I’m going to put it. Only in the single digits today? Ok, I guess I’ll put on some gloves when I shovel. As the winter has worn on, I’ve realized that I never lost that toughness necessary to handle a New England winter. I just hadn’t faced a tough New England winter in a while.

Our big complaints now? That aforementioned traffic due to streets that are 60% their normal size. The T not running because the snow has come so fast and furious that the tracks aren’t even clear in some places. Are they going to have ice melt at the hardware store since they’ve run out for three days in a row. Are parking space savers ok?

My memory of being a kid and facing down winter head on doesn’t include the six layers of clothing topped by full snow pants, or coming inside and standing next to the wood stove, which in hindsight, is how we survived winter. No, I just remember winter not being a big deal.

30 years later, six feet of snow later, watching as a near blizzard drops another ten inches of snow onto our yard, already swelling with mounds of shoveled snow, winter isn’t a big deal. My hearty New England soul can handle it just fine.

It’s just a pain in the ass.