I live in a historic part of a historic New England town: East Greenwich, Rhode Island, to be precise.
It’s tough to walk five minutes in any direction here without running across a cemetery or two with graves from two or three centuries back. The cemeteries range in size from 20 plots to 2,000.
Our part of town is known as the Hill. You can see it in the picture I chose for the blog today. In fact, the church spire in the background of the photo is the one belonging to our family church, St. Luke’s Episcopal. The open space in the right foreground is Academy Field, where sledding, baseball, soccer, and dog exercising manage to share time and space with admirable ease throughout the year.
In last weekend’s blizzard, the town got covered by pretty much exactly two feet of snow, which had the effect of turning it, for a time, into another town entirely. Street corners, after the endless plowing, were piled so deep in the white stuff that it looked unreal somehow, as though trapdoors had been opened at strategic spots in the clouds. The reality of the event took days to process.
By contrast, the storm that clipped us last night was less than generous in terms of what it left us. Although it is hard to know exactly, so powdery was what fell, and so strong the wind that blew, I will say that we received between 4 and 5 inches.
Intriguingly, though, the taste of winter from the more recent event is stronger than what the blizzard gave. The storm, like last week’s, wound up offshore so intensely that an eye formed, and the wind that has blown all day has covered the once-cleanly plowed streets with snow for a second time.
Walking my dog just now under the black trees and the cold stars and the sliver of frozen moon, the wind sent up puff after puff of snow, some of it local, but some of it, inevitably, from fields, farms, and homes to our west. It’s that kind of night, and that kind of wind, when a thin spray of snow is in the air all the time and gusts spill ground snow onto the streets in feathered gobs.
The temperature is 20 degrees, but when the wind gusts, the assault of cold on skin, flesh, and bones is what crazy kids from California like myself yearn for: Arctic fury, old time winter, here and now.
The neighborhood is quiet, apart from the loud gusts of wind whooshing by. Not a lot of people consider it prime walking weather, and of course I understand. That said, I am noticing a curious thing in modern New England. So little time do people spend outdoors that they barely notice when an old-timey winter takes place right outside their door. They rush to and from their cars, dressed for temperatures 40 degrees warmer than what is actually occurring, shiver for a few minutes until the heat takes the chill off in their vehicles, and then rush from the car to wherever they’re going on the other end.
Sure, there are people who sled and ski and skate and run and walk in winter. But, increasingly, they are exceptions to the rule. The mass of humanity here that retreats from the elements has gotten so insulated from nature, and from the glory of a night like tonight, for instance, that they can be led by the nose when it comes to weather and climate. Whole world’s burning up? Must be, it says so right here. Plus, didn’t I see a video of a glacier melting, or something? Winter’s a thing of the past? Must be, I don’t even need a jacket anymore. And so on.
Do I find it a little depressing to hear people talk of global warming, knowing that they’re really talking about the growing wedge between themselves and the natural world, in all too many cases?
Yes, I do. Don’t sell your coat.