Baby, it’s cold outside. And folks in much of the country are pretty damn cranky and fed up wondering when the glacial cold and snow are going to end.
Who could blame them? This year’s winter blast has broken all misery indices. Jokes about the Donner Party aren’t funny anymore.
That's why I feel a small snowflake of guilt to admit that… I love it.
You see, I never cared for palm trees and coconuts and would easily pass on a languid week in the tropics for one forlorn day in the tundra.
I love the very idea of geographic North. Give me crisp, cold skies, snow-covered hills, boreal and deciduous forests, icy mountains, northern legends and fairy tales, the aurora borealis, Santa Claus, fur hats and winter clothes, skiing, snow-shoeing, and hunkering down when a huge snowstorm threatens. Is there a softer peace in the world than a new snowfall or a greater exhilaration than a howling winter wind?
In fact, while many imagine a heaven that chirps and gurgles across a lush, green montage, I hope to spend eternity in a majestic alpine landscape amidst snow-capped peaks, mountain meadows, and glacial lakes. I long to abide where giant bears, great elk, lynx, eagles, and arctic wolves freely roam. North is more than a direction on the compass—it’s a spiritual guide to a Far Land, pure and remote.
Perhaps it’s because I came into the world during a monumental January blizzard that held my mother snowbound, preventing her from reaching the hospital. Thus, I was born at home in—as I love to reflect—the same room and same bed in which I was conceived and in which, years later, my father on a bright autumn day would pass from the world.
Or maybe it’s because I grew up and lived for many years in the Northeastern US. Yet, many of my fellow northerners rejected the inclemency and lit out for balmy climes as soon as life allowed.
I can’t precisely blame my borealphilia on genes; while my American mother had northern European ancestors, my father hailed from sunny, southern Italy—land of olive trees, three-hour afternoon naps, and soft Mediterranean breezes.
But as much I can fall under the spell of a sweet Italian aria, I’d rather savor it in front of a warm fire that shelters me from a February snowstorm.
Of course, I cherish other northern seasons. Who doesn’t dream of the glorious springs, the halcyon summers, and the dazzling autumns of the Northland?
But even they serve mainly to contrast and build crescendo to the mighty dark solstice that sits at the center of my yearly rotation.
Family members tell me to give it a few more years and I’ll be begging for the palm-drenched Florida condo.
I doubt it. The North and its weather, landscape, and legend hold too much wonder—a wonder I think I’ll need more than ever when I enter my winter years.
So, while I shovel snow from the driveway, I know that I’ll soon have to bid a sad farewell to deep winter and northern dreams. And, with apologies to Shelly, I’m left to pine: if spring comes, can winter be far behind?