In New England, the weather is as much an emotional and psychological barometer as it is an actual indicator of abundance or depletion, of consistency or the wildly erratic. “It’s been a hard one,” is a phrase a lot of New Englanders say when we’re talking about long, punishing stretches of cold and snow. A number of things might be enveloped in that casual statement–death, illness, disappointment, heartbreak. The harshness of a New England winter, its unrepentant attitude, its ability to level the playing field of misery, can sometimes provide the right emotional soundtrack of our own personal trials. And sometimes that’s the only satisfying thing about being pushed through whatever challenge or struggle you’re experiencing, makes the cosmic broccoli go down just a tad bit easier if even the naked, shivering trees seem to say “fuck this noise, man.”
The second day of April graced us with wet, messy, sloppy, incredibly annoying snow. “We’ve had it worse!” is another phrase New Englander’s like to say with a mixture of warped pride and practiced cynicism. This typically prefaces an archival memory dump about the blizzahhhd of April Fool’s Day, ’97 that froze the frickin T to its sucky, rundown tracks or the one in ’83 that came outta nowhere and left caahhhs stranded on I-95 fah fricken days. We can’t seem to help ourselves in the one-upmanship game to out sour each other.
This winter, with its pop-up April snowstorm, was tedious, which, I suppose, makes the cut on the spectrum of “hard to let-us-end-it-via-volcano-sacrifice.” The weather didn’t quite unleash its fury on us with a chain of snowstorms as it did several years ago when the banks of street corners climbed to meet the eaves of porches. Nor did it give us a pass with early thaws and the kind of anemic weather systems that pass for snow, but leave skiers and snow folk panting in frustration. There was simply cold, the occasional storm, and the feeling of suspension, of waiting for something to shift in either direction to let you know how to feel about it all—the weather, life.
Unsurprisingly, the nation also seemed to be in a slow free fall these past months. I am a proud, unapologetic liberal feminist. In pretty good times I’m fired up about something: Why are all the posters at the “Rock Star Fitness” gym I go to of male rock’n roll musicians? Can we please stop saying “chick lit?” We don’t say “bro lit!” The produce section of Whole Foods definitely has gendered overtones. Admittedly, you have to pick your battles.
In unprecedented times like these, the kind where you seem to stop whatever you’re doing every few hours and remark to no one in particular, “Man, this would make a great dystopian, nihilistic movie,” it’s pretty much a constant flow of rage and anger. And there are so many places to put it, so many channels that deserve our activism and vigilance, and critical scrutiny that it becomes hard to move at all. Like the winter that has dragged itself forward, inch by inch, a few degrees warmer, then a few degrees colder; there’s no real traction, there’s no genuine movement, only gravitational pull—auto-pilot toward something vaguely sinister, maybe relieving, definitely quasi-fictional.
Sunday there was sweet and satisfying reversal. The sun broke out. The temperatures shot up, chasing off the snow to expose large expanses of yard and flower beds. I went outside and did some light yard work—clipping bushes, yanking out the dry husks of stalks, carefully clearing away damp leaves here and there. Hands in the earth felt like the response to a jeremiad. The process of exposing at this time of year is a delicate business, shot through with worry—is it too soon? Are we ready to face whatever comes next? The answer in nature and in life: nope.
Just underneath a batch of leaves a small mound of green leaves clustered. Some perennial making itself known. Green. After so many months moving through monochrome to suddenly glimpse life in polaroid was startling and reassuring. We come through. We lean into the muscle memory of an ancient cycle. We forge new roots, stronger ones, nurtured by hardship. We may go to ground, but we remain green under there and, eventually, we rise, we rise, we rise.