Novelist | Singer
There are only three things wrong with New England; January, February and March. Apart from that, we have the best weather in the world. No life threatening tornados or landslides. Hurricanes, occasionally, but meteorologists provide weeks of warning to haul boats, board up windows and flee to higher ground. One day we could get a tsunami equal to the ones in Japan or Thailand, but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a fairly benign location weather-wise, with breath-catching scenes of spring flowers and summer forest and mountains, fall colors encountered rarely on this planet, and winter ocean scapes that coax artists from around the globe.
Most gritty residents take the winter in stride and good humor, quipping, “It’s New England, what do you expect?” Everyone dresses accordingly and slogs it out, shoveling with a smile, hunkering down during the coldest spells, emerging after nor’easters with snow blowers and ice melt. They wait patiently for the sun to return from its annual migration south to warm the soil and bring life to the land.
The complaining doesn’t begin until around the end of February. No one expects a break until February is done, though a few will mention it, and in direct relation to the total snowfall that particular winter. Winters with very little snow leave a few complaining about that in equal measure. Generally, New Englanders hole up like squirrels, emerging for work and play, occupying themselves inside with a myriad of hobbies and chores. This is when the Natives sewed elaborate beaded clothing and carved pipes and tool handles. Winter has its virtues.
But this winter? What the hell happened? Since when did New England winter last until the middle of March? March is a tough month. We call it “mud season.” It is the season for one pair of shoes (Bean’s Duck shoes) that go on and come off at the door. It can be 70 degrees or freezing, but never, never freezing day after day after day. The snow left on the ground hasn’t been snow in a month. It’s ice. More than a foot of solid ice that supports the weight of a large man carrying a sofa. And since the temperature hasn’t been above freezing since Thanksgiving, it’s approximately the hardness of well-tempered steel. Just recently we’ve had some melting thanks to horizontal rain. Snow that survived the rain is now harder and denser than ever.
People are bitter. We’re numb. We’ve given up talking about the weather and simply throw our hands up or roll our eyes. We laugh. We no longer care how much longer winter will last. We shrug into our heaviest coats morning after morning, aware that tolerance is one of the New Englander’s finer traits. We’re superstitious about predictions and shush each other over convenience store counters for fear winter will indeed last until June. We know it’s only a matter of time.
When spring comes (and it WILL come), a contagious, giddy fever will rage through the northeast. Kids will wear t-shirts and shorts to school before the last of the snow is gone. Everyone will smile and greet each other warmly. The beaches will be crawling with walkers on weekends. We know we deserve spring, because we have paid so dearly through the dark days of winter. Birds will sing, dogs will race in circles, babies will laugh.
But not yet. No, not nearly yet, because it’s still damn winter. One of the hardest, longest, coldest winters in New England memory.