Escape into Winter for Snow-DeprivedJanuary 28th, 2011 © by Susan Swartz
When the red-eye to Boston landed I looked out the window and chirped “it’s snowing!”
“Yesss,” groaned the women next to me, obviously immune to my delight. Big deal, snow in January.
I should have confessed I have a strange snow lust. Tell her about how every January I start to worry about winter passing me by. If I haven’t yet managed to talk someone into going to Tahoe I feel deprived. It’s a lost season if I make it through winter without digging out thick wool sweaters or needing a pair of tights under my jeans.
Yet it is unnecessary for me to sit in coastal California and long for snow when I know people who live where winter is true and cold. That includes my sister in Massachusetts which has been walloped by continuous snow storms, record low temperatures and having what she calls “a real winter winter.”
I called her during one white-out and she said she couldn’t see out of any window in her house. I sighed with envy and asked if I could come for a visit. Sure, as long as I took the shuttle from the airport. Another storm was on its way and she wasn’t driving into Boston.
The weather gods delivered. The newspapers complained about another nasty blast of winter. TV interviewers talked to dreary locals about how sick they were of snow. But it was just what I wanted.
The beach down the road from my sister’s house was covered with unmarked powder, the salt marsh an ice sculpture, the clam flats frozen over. We drove up to even snowier New Hampshire and the White Mountains into a white-on-white world that looked like a photo spread in Yankee magazine.
I snow-shoed beside a river as snow sifted through birch trees as fast as fog sweeping through the redwoods. I threw myself into a snow bank and made a snow angel.
I trace my shivery needs to growing up in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Winter meant rolling around outside like a baby bear, trussed up in snowsuits, skating on ponds, sledding down hills. All the fun stuff. I moved to California in my 20s, apparently before I’d had my fill of snow and ice and before winter became a grown-up hardship.
Come November I start decorating the house with snow images. I stick museum postcards of snow scenes in the mirrors. A picture of a woman dancing in the snow is on the bookcase. A photo of a woman doing a yoga pose by an icy lake on the bathroom wall. My Google home page has a scene of ski trails through trees. Top of my seasonal playlist is Sting’s “If on A Winter’s Night.”
I recognize the miseries of those who work, commute and shovel their way through a prolonged winter. I was only there for a week but I know about chapped lips, flat fly-away hair and dry skin. I suffered from leaky boots and inadequate head gear and caught a cold probably because I went on a sleigh ride in a ball cap instead of one of those dorky wool hats with ear flaps. Or maybe it was sitting in the snow in a hot tub.
Yet, I think that a “real winter winter” must be good for the psyche. It toughens a person. Makes the blood quicken. Snaps you to attention. The raw cold and the icy beauty is a sharp reminder that mother nature, even when fiddled with, is still the boss.
The morning I flew from Boston temperatures were creeping toward zero. Six hours later we landed in San Francisco where temperatures had been weirdly warm in the 60s. The flight attendant said it was now safe to remove our down jackets.