Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winter's Moan

“Snow in the South is wonderful. It has a kind of magic and mystery that it has nowhere else. And the reason for this is that it comes to people in the South not as the grim, unyielding tenant of Winter's keep, but as a strange and wild visitor from the secret North.” - Thomas Wolfe

They’re calling for snow again today. And by calling for it, I mean putting the odds at 100%. Those are pretty high odds. I admire the meteorologist who says, “95% is for weathergirls. This thing is gonna happen!”

So of course, my fellow Southerners and I are in a sort of giddy state of dread and excitement. We’ve bought up all the bread and milk in the county, left our faucets to trickle, and opened the cabinet doors. (I’ve never understood what the cabinet-opening was about. Having lived in freezing climates for over twenty years, I didn’t experience this weather precaution until moving south. I guess it’s so you can see all the bread.)

Yes, we’re excited about snow. It shuts things down, makes the landscape pretty, and gives us an excuse to wear cute hats. But unfortunately, along with snow comes the cold, and that is something we are never, ever happy about. Blood may be thicker than water down here, but not by very much. As soon as the thermometer dips below 50 degrees, we are unable to get through a full day without remarking on how cold it is.

You’ll notice I included myself in this group of delicate Southern flowers. As much as I hate to admit it, I have become a cold-weather weakling. I now sit huddled inside on days that my ancestors would consider shorts weather. Sitting inside in bare feet and a ¾-sleeve tee shirt, of course.

I know better than to pull that wimpy bit up north, though. When I do trek back to the tundra, I’m fully prepared. I bring along the shearling-lined parka, wool hat, and waterproof Timberland boots that only see daylight twice a year in Memphis, and I keep my mouth shut about it. I don’t remark on the weather because it just isn’t remarkable. I don’t know if Northerners are better able to handle the cold, but they certainly know better than to draw attention to it. Even if they were the type to complain or outwardly express any other type of emotion, they wouldn’t bother with something that is unpleasant, unchangeable, and seemingly unending. It’s one thing to be ill or out of sorts for a day or two, but admitting that you’re bothered by the cold is akin to saying, “I am unhappy and am going to be this way for the next seven months.” That’s something your mailman or your grocery bagger just doesn’t need to know.

Maybe that’s why Southerners are more effusive in their freezing. The two months or so of winter that we experience is always somewhat of a novelty, broken up by random spells of 60-degree days that reassure us of impending spring.

Ah, spring. We have that here. In Memphis, there are actually flowers blooming on March 20th. In Minnesota, the only things coming from the ground in mid-March are crusty, waist-high stalagmites of soot, ice, snow, and sand.

So although I once mocked them, I am now one of the legion Southerners who goes sockless in January and then complains of a chill. And I love it. It’s so much more enjoyable to have winter be a pesky little nuisance than an overpowering oppressor. While my friends in Minneapolis, Chicago and New York are so under it they’re completely over it, the idea of snow now warms my heart.


  1. My favorite is when it goes on a little too long, like now, and people get genuinely pissed about it. Like someone has seriously erred in the weather department with this cold crap.

  2. Help me understand the cabinet thing?!

  3. I could have perhaps clarified that it's for cabinets that contain pipes, and it's intended to let the room's warmth get to pipes that are near uninsulated walls. But that wasn't as funny.