Saturday, January 22, 2005

Reflections on a New England Winter

Having recently been in Central America, experiencing the relative warmth of the Mexican winter, it is with hesitant trepidation that I embrace the cold of the New England winter. Each year I tell myself that winter isn’t so bad, that I don’t mind the cold and actually enjoy aspects of winter: snoozing in front of the fire with Mary and the dogs, the coziness of our house, cross-country skiing, and the picturesque quality of our neighborhood as the snow gathers on the bowing trees. But when the snow hits the windshield, so to speak, reality’s cold jaws are unmistakably unpleasant.

For instance, think about that ubiquitous winter activity of scraping the ice off of one’s car each morning. How many Mexicans would think that scraping ice off of a car is the strangest pastime? For my part, I find that my 12-year-old Toyota Camry is often iced over on the inside of the windshield. Just the other day, my locks were frozen shut and I had quite the time getting into my car. Then, once I was inside, the ice on the inside of the windshield took incredible dexterity and patience to remove. Due to the extreme cold and the Toyota’s poor defrost mechanism, I then found that the side windows just wouldn’t clear no matter what I did. As I came to the first intersection, I tried to open the driver’s side window (the windows are electric) in order to look for oncoming traffic, but the windows were frozen shut and the little electric motor made a very unhappy whirring sound. When I opened the door to look out, the blast of wind and cold air took my breath away and my glasses fogged up from the sudden change of temperature as the door opened. I took off my glasses but then was dismayed at my blurry vision and the way it felt like my eyeballs were freezing. What’s a hard-working New England nurse to do?

Today, we are expecting the storm of the year, up to 24 inches of snow, with sub-zero temperatures and high winds. Even Sparkey and Tina seem content to lay by the fire and let their bladders slowly expand, eventually giving in to those screaming stretch receptors, specialized cells in the walls of the bladder which send a signal to the brain that it’s time to void. (Why do they ever call it “voiding?) Anyway, I digress…...I was due to leave today in order to baby-sit my two lovely goddaughters, but I have sadly canceled those plans due to the pending storm. (My sincerest apologies to the family whom I love dearly.) It only seems that the snowstorms, however unfortunately, appear to occur on the weekends, never when I need them, namely during the week. As a healthcare provider working in a work environment with an admittedly “high tolerance” for staying open in inclement conditions, it is a rare occasion when I can kick back and enjoy a sorely needed snow-day like we used to have when we were kids. And true to form, it is patently plausible that, come Monday morning, the roads will be clear, the sky will be blue, and I will be off to continue my work which, while highly enervating and satisfying, is always in need of unforeseen weather-based absenteeism as a stress reduction tool. Having chosen to not work in a hospital, concentrating instead on community health, it is a relief that, even if I do not make it to work and the clinic is closed, my patients are generally warm in their apartments and homes, a phone-call away from expert medical advice and an ambulance. Still, the likelihood of a snow day is always slim and I mentally prepare myself for the slushy drive, frozen windshield, foggy eyeglasses, and malfunctioning doors that winter brings, and that most likely await me on Monday morning.

For now, we prepare to join hundreds of people at Whole Foods, shopping for fun treats and staples to get us through the storm, and then the line at the video store, looking for some feel-good movies to while away the snowy hours in front of the fire. And I realize, that no matter how much I complain, I love New England and its changing seasons and embrace the winter for what it is---just another challenge of life on this troublesome, cold, and wonderful physical plane.
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