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The Winter That Wasn't

Crocus flowers start to sprout on a cold, wet Spring day in North Andover, Mass., Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Elise Amendola/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Crocus flowers start to sprout on a cold, wet Spring day in North Andover, Mass., Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Elise Amendola/AP)

As I write this, it is 72 degrees out. One of my daughters is pogo-sticking in the driveway, and the other is riding her bike — in shorts. A neighbor is clipping the leafless branches of his hedges wearing a T-shirt. The window of my home office is open, and there’s a gentle breeze slipping in.

And I don’t like it one bit.

I realize that this makes me a freak. My Facebook feed is full of ecstatic posts from my New England-area friends — OMG 70 degrees!! #SpringIsHere! #GottaLoveNewEnglandWeather! — and pictures of people and their kids doing gleeful, outside things. Radio announcers are bemused and delighted as they report the forecast. People I encounter throughout my day call the weather “beautiful.”

Yes. I remember last year. It was awful and I hope I never live to see anything like it again. But still, I prefer my winters to be winters.

To which I say, “meh.”

I truly wish I could enjoy unseasonably warm days like this — and for that matter this whole mild winter we’ve been having — but I can’t.

(This is the point at which you tell me I’m insane, that it’s not too late for a blizzard, that I’m jinxing the weather, and Dear God, woman; don’t you remember what it was like last year?)

Yes. I remember last year. It was awful and I hope I never live to see anything like it again. But still, I prefer my winters to be winters. Not just because snow is pretty and sledding makes my children happy and I enjoy a good fire in the fireplace.

And not just because the specter of climate change makes my heart hurt, and warmer-than-average temperatures remind me that the future is not looking good, although this is certainly a factor. This winter is officially the warmest on record for the contiguous United States. And isolated cold snaps, record lows and our hellish winter of 2015 notwithstanding -- winters in the U.S. have been warming steadily over the past century.

Nah, what bothers me most about mild winters, and this one in particular, is that I feel like I’ve been cheated out of four months of my life.

As a New Englander, the rhythm of the seasons is the scaffolding of my whole sense of time — my memories, my plans and even my state of mind throughout the course of a given year.

Spring is for rediscovering the smells of damp earth and open windows, cleaning out closets, recharging and re-energizing. Summer is for letting go, going barefoot and drinking cold beer. Fall: renewed mental focus, holidays and the snap of woodsmoke.

And winter for me is for slowing down and turning inward. It’s for the silence of snow and the smell of wet wool. It’s for feeling humbled by and sometimes downright furious at the cold and the dark. It’s for waiting and, yes, suffering a little.

Believe me, I don’t always love winter. But I need it.

I need all of it.

Over the past several years, as I’ve bid goodbye to my 30s and said hello to my new 30s (a.k.a. my 40s), time has been accelerating at an alarming rate. My children are getting taller, more angular and more independent far faster than I think should be physically possible. Last year they were in second grade, and now, somehow, they’re already in third. They know how to use pogo sticks, for god’s sake.

As a New Englander, the rhythm of the seasons is the scaffolding of my whole sense of time -- my memories, my plans and even my state of mind throughout the course of a given year.

So when I miss out on the predictable progression of seasons that I am used to, I feel like I’m being cheated out of time. And time is ever more precious to me.

I'm not ready for the crocuses that I saw on a recent run. I'm not ready to start making plans for the summer. I’m not ready for planting flowers and wearing short sleeves and ushering the kids into bed when the sky isn’t quite dark.

I know it’s not too late for another cold spell like the one we had a few weeks ago, or even for a good snowpocalpyse. But at this point, so close to the official start of spring, that kind of thing is considered an anomaly — a novelty, even.

To everything there is a season, and the season for winter has passed.

I just hope we’ll get one next year.

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Jane Roper Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Jane Roper is the author of "Double Time," a memoir, and "Eden Lake," a novel. She blogs here.

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