Having lived in Northern California for twelve pretty awesome years, I do understand the lure of living largely without snow and frigid temperatures. And I’ll admit that, during the time I lived there, when friends and family would suggest “going to the snow” as an ostensibly brilliant idea for an outing, I would nearly always decline. “I grew up around snow,” I’d say. “It’s not exotic for me. It’s not fun. It’s something to be avoided. No freakin’ thanks.”
Yet now that I am older and sager, I realize how sadly I was in denial. How much, deep down, I missed the plummet-ing temps, the bitter wind brutalizing my skin, the nagging sting of toes in need of an extra layer of sock. The weight of a shovel piled high with snow and nowhere to put it because the piles surrounding you are so tall and so steep that your dump will merely slide down again, burying your boots and necessitating another useless haul. Your growing antipathy for that shovel: the sturdier and more reliable, the heavier.
It’s at times like these that my sister- and brother-in-law, who live in Northern California, delight in sharing tales about their wandering outside in t-shirts and shorts. But although they certainly seem to be bragging—even attempting provoke me, teasing out feelings of jealousy, of regret at ever having left that “golden state”—I see right through their sad little charade. I do. I hear the strain in their voices, the deeply buried but clearly discernible envy. It’s so obvious to me now that what they desire deep down is to be here on the east coast, wondering whether the latest dire weather report is accurate or ignore-able; whether a rush to the grocery store is really worth fighting all the other panicking people making their way there; whether your child’s school will be closed yet again and how you’re going to make that work; whether this time you’ll be snowed in for days and will the power go out?, will you set fire to your abode with a candle?, will you run out of food? Let’s be real: this is adventure. In this “information age,” which gives us the false sense that everything is know-able before it happens and that we have the power to control the uncontrollable, it’s exciting to wonder what’s coming around the corner… or whether your roof can withstand yet another massive snow dump.
Oh, sure—California gets earthquakes. Listen, in my twelve years of living there I only ever felt one. Admittedly, it was the 1989 Loma Prieta biggie, but despite what many east-coasters think, these things just don’t happen all the time. There were others during the time I lived there, sure, but they were relatively small and for one reason or another, I never actually felt them.
Anyway, the point isn’t that California is without environmental or natural issues (take, for instance, the drought it’s experiencing, one of the worst on record). The point is snow envy… and the fact that while most warm-climate dwellers may be unlikely to admit it, they most certainly have it.
Four season dwellers, we are rugged. We are freakin’ tough. We understand the back-breaking exhilaration of shoveling mounds of snow… and we get that it’s an incomparably awesome workout. We may gripe and whine throughout the long-ass winter, but let’s acknowledge that we also appreciate it, not only for its pristine, sparkling beauty, but for the undeniable and unparalleled appreciation it gives us for all the other seasons. We earn that beautiful weather, people, and that’s just one aspect of the awesomeness (and righteousness) of living somewhere with four real seasons.
So let’s not continue to buy into those tired old fantasies about escaping to warmer climes. Instead, it’s time to embrace and celebrate the sturdy stuff we’re made of. Working toward something—even if it’s an inevitable something like warm weather—makes it sweeter once it comes.
Photos: Top: Urban Snow © Jorgeantonio | Dreamstime.com; Bottom: New Haven Street @ Aviva Luria