Monday, December 21, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Winter is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Winter is a contradiction of terms. For starters, there’s less to see, but you see more of it. Vast stretches of towers uncovered by trees; people’s faces scarcely visible atop approaching-spherical layers of sweaters, coats, scarves, hats, gloves. There’s something comforting about these woolly bundles making their way across the suddenly angular landscape; something nice about seeing the streets without their usual dance of greenery.

I’ve always loved winter a little bit, though not unreservedly. It helps that I am notoriously cold-resistant—have been from an early age. The head of my school used to see me walking into the building on chilly kindergarten mornings and ask, “Where are your mittens?” I have since acquired mittens, more or less, though I can’t say I always wear them. I also have two—count ’em, two—winter coats at this point; some days I bother to put one on before going out of the house. Today I even donned a coat to go across the street at work. The times, they are a-changin’.

I find that people are ambivalent about winter (those that don’t hate it with a fiery, summery passion, that is). On the one hand there’s all this festive, good-cheer, hail-fellow-well-met stuff going on. The holidays, of course, and their attendant decorations; the holiday markets that sprout around the city’s more notable parks; the proliferation of warm-weather drinks at Starbucks (peppermint hot chocolate: the taste of winter); children lobbing snowballs in the park. And simultaneously everyone complains—the cold, the sleet and slush that quickly gray with age, the darkness getting earlier and earlier (up ’til today anyway). I, for instance, always conveniently forget until around 4 o’clock that it’s going to be dark by the time I leave work, and am invariably disappointed.

Snow exemplifies this winter ambivalence for me. All the news on Saturday was that there was going to be a big blizzard. I wondered if I was going to make it back home to Brooklyn from Manhattan, even though when I got in around 1 there was only the barest sprinkling. The snow increased until all my dinner companions wanted to do was sit in the window and watch the light and white mingle over Union Square (“Plow!” cried one, delighted); by the time I made it back to Brooklyn with a friend, en route to a party, we were fighting an uphill battle to scale Park Slope. Being the harebrained individual that I am, I decided to walk home afterwards. Prospect Park was beautiful in the constant onrush of flakes. The streets were still save for a few brave shovelers and a contingent of gleeful kids rushing over to the park, sleds in tow. I felt like a one-woman snowplow making my way through the extremely residential streets surrounding my house; I was an explorer, staking my claim to unmarked territory. I fell asleep as the snow glided dreamily down over the fire escape, the Victorian roofs, the sycamore branches. No matter that I was soaked through from my walk; making my way through the snow’s procession was beautiful and perfect (if a bit too reminiscent of "The Snow Queen").

Yesterday I awoke to a stalled landscape. The snow had quit falling; the closest we got was briefly airborne shovelfuls landing haphazardly on streets and yards. I had to don boots to walk out the door; on the subway steps, MTA workers advised caution and sprinkled salt. The train tracks were still unearthly white, but elsewhere the city moved along on its Sunday best business, piling up and graying every which way.

The aftermath of snow is never as perfect as the process—I guess that’s probably true for just about everything. No one likes static, or cold feet. By the time my birthday rolls around in late January, everyone’s ready for those leaves to come back and obscure the streets with shade, ready to put away those winter coats and let mysterious jingling loose change, Metrocards, and assorted other surprises lie in wait for next year. Winter’s a nice place to visit but we wouldn’t want to live here.


  1. you make me want to be a better blogger!

  2. I hate winter!!!!!!!

    But January 24 is not the most depressing day of the year. I think the most depressing time is late February, when winter has been going on forever and will continue to go forever. Also on Jan 24 I don't have enough work yet for it to be truly depressing - that all changes by Februarry 20th.

  3. I concur! Also, I go back and forth—am I unlucky 'cause my birthday is the most depressing day of the year or lucky 'cause presumably for me it's not the most depressing day of the year?

  4. Oh Nora... How beautiful. It is brisk and sunny and a bit chill here, weekly grey skies and rains but not much more. I wish I were a'blizzard walkin' with you.

  5. I couldn't understand that poem; maybe it would make sense if I had a mind of winter. I think I like "Nomad Exquisite" better, so I might be a summer person.

    P.S. What's the name of that kind of mittens?