Winter of old returned. For a while at least, and for The America that has forgotten. The ninny media performed its usual work, everyone able to stand out in the cold and take pictures and put them on every screen. The species of logo-wearing meteorologist that hunches against hurricane-driven surf was upstaged. I was grateful.
Seattle got none of it. Our winter blast came in early December, as happens every few years. I love the brilliant mornings: the night sky naked to space, black silence cold flowing down, pooling, bricking itself in. A brilliant dawn follows, friendly with the sharply drawn stars, the Olympics across the city stark as cardboard cutouts. Walking out in such cold is the pure release of knowing for certain there are things far bigger than me. I am the ant, and the cold is the shoe.
A few weeks later the Midwest and East get it, the news sites filled with stories of power outages, school closed, negative-so-much-Fahrenheit. Lost in the shouting are little stories noting such cold outbreaks were more regular in the past, that the Seventies were a cold decade, that we have warmed so much now. The usual suspects bellow whar’s yer global warming now?
A week goes by and the winter of old is gone, replaced by mid-50s in Massachusetts. In Seattle trees are budding. No one outside of climate science blogs says anything about this new winter, the winter of not.
In the Cascade West it is warm, high as 60 when the sun is out. The blocking pattern that sent the “Polar Vortex” down south has swung up here, stagnating everything. Seattle is under a stagnant air advisory for another week. Fog pillows in where normally there is rain, sometimes snow.
Fog signifies nothing. It can happen anytime, in any season, even in desert. All fogs have the same clammy, indistinct sameness. In fog, I do not know where I am in any way.
When I remember the harsh vacuum freezes of childhood, high school, my twenties, they are stark in outline and clear with purpose. Getting firewood in, holding the ladder so a grownup can break up the ice dams on the roof, heating up soup: everything is the foundation of adventure. Straightline winds curled snow as sharp as glass shards down the street, and to go out into it required layers of preparation like leaving a spaceship. Opening the outer door was entering that outer world, the wind hammering me, the snow raking my outer polyester layers, movement constrained to shuffling. Winter transformed the world.
Now the heat has come. The average is raised. The doubt that persists is paid for by those who want to keep making the same money. People are eager for nothing if not denial, and this is the biggest denial there is.
But here’s a truth: I like it warmer now. Away from Texas long enough I can appreciate sun and heat (but still not humidity). I get the snowbirds.
I do miss the snow and appreciate its coming scarcity. I appreciate the aesthetic of its loss. Snow blankets and muffles. Snow becomes a touchable sun. Snow generates riches of moonlit silence. Snow makes work to prepare for it, and appreciation when it is gone. We will lose these things.