It’s snowing in the Berkshires this afternoon. And the temperature has been falling through the twenties. Yet again. Like most people who choose to live in a part of the country that enjoys four seasons, I’m usually able to let the snow just slide off my back. But, for whatever reason, I’ve taken this bitter winter personally. And I don’t think I’m alone. The whole country has been under a kind of weather siege. Ice paralyzing Atlanta. The Midwest buried in drifts. The suburbs running out of salt and snow days. Potholes forming. Tempers fraying.
When I turn my collar up against the wind these days, it feels as though I’m warding off something more than just the cold. Larger, stranger, and more ominous elements seem to be at work. Even the term Polar Vortex has a menacing end-of-days ring to it. I think part of the trouble is that we’ve gotten so used to milder winters in the northeast. Two years ago we barely had winter at all. Mother Nature’s sunny disposition had lulled us into complacency. So this winter feels like a slap in the face. An unexpected act of passive aggression from a suddenly unstable planet.
We’re not alone in being caught short by this long stretch of brutal weather. Massachusetts Audubon says that “though tradition places the appearance of robins as a harbinger of spring … robins have been known to overwinter in Massachusetts since at least the early 1900s.” They’ve been spotted in the Berkshires recently. Brief flashes of grey blue and rusty red against the white-on-white landscape. They tend to stay clear of bird feeders, preferring to scavenge on their own for the worms, berries, and insects that they like. But the ground is still frozen solid where we are and under a few feet of heavily packed snow. Have they come back too soon — or stayed for the duration like the rest of us? Whatever the case, they seem to be dealing with the situation with far better grace and good humor than me. Do you remember their song? It’s: Cheer-up, cheerily. Cheer-up cheerily. Cheer-up cheerily!