Here in Ithaca, we’re about to enter what is widely considered to be the low point of the year. If there were a category in the readers’ poll called Best Time of Year to Hole Up in the Chanticleer for Two Weeks (and there should be), a strong case can be made for early January. It’s dark 23 hours a day. We have gray snow. Plus, as my brother reminds me every year, there is nothing as ‘over’ as The Holidays. Mostly, though, people are miserable about the weather. It’s going to be months before you can go outside without bracing yourself against a blast of cold air.
We’re not the only people who have winter, and I have to say that some others seem to handle it with more aplomb. The Norwegians have a saying: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” (They also say, “shameful deeds bring on revenge,” which has nothing to do with weather, but as proverbs go, it’s pretty cool.) The clothing thing is an excellent point. Ever since they got that Viking thing out of their systems, the Norwegians strike me as eminently sensible people. Dress for conditions. Don’t wear flip-flops in snow.
Mark Twain famously said of the weather, “if you want it to be sunny and warm all the time, move to freakin’ San Diego.” I’m paraphrasing here, but he’s right. What we need here is a paradigm shift. Embrace the winter. Either start doing something outside or start enjoying being indoors.
Maybe it’s the assumption that clouds are always bad and sun is always good. Personally, I like a little weather. One day soon, and I’m serious about this, I predict a headline about me. It will read something like this: “Local man held without bail in meteorologist attack.” It won’t be about bad predicting, either. I understand about chaos theory and how tricky weather predictions are. Any prediction made beyond six hours from now is little more accurate than throwing darts at a poster marked ‘cold,’ and ‘not as cold.’ It won’t even be because they always tell you what to wear. (Be sure to bundle up out there!) It’s going to be because of the constant, grinning editorializing about what is ‘bad’ weather and what is ‘good.’ (Keep your fingers crossed for sun!)
I should let it go. Complaining about the weather is a more than a local pastime. It’s how we embrace the winter. It’s as much a part of Ithaca as a Prius in the Wal-Mart parking lot. And the fact that it’s cold and gray and you have to excavate your car like one of the Leakeys every morning until May, well, that’s what keeps a lot of the weak-spirited types in places like California and Florida. My grandmother was a Weather Channel shut-in, who monitored conditions to the last isobar, always knew the details of the 10-day forecast and could explain the mechanics of Doppler radar as if she’d invented it, even though she almost never actually set foot outside. It’s not really about the weather per se. It’s not even just a topic of conversation. It’s part of the Central New York genetic code.
My point, if I have one, is that I think we Ithacans secretly like the dead of winter. We’re a little smug about enduring it. We don’t admit it, but it’s kind of cozy inside. A person can lounge around in socks like Ilya Oblomov all weekend without feeling the slightest guilt. You can’t do that in southern California. They’ll arrest you for Criminal Immobility. (That’s a real thing there.) And let’s face it, parsing the subtleties of an impeachment trial is best done in the dim light of Indoors, with an arctic wind howling outside. This time of year is an integral part of what makes us Ithacans. I’ll play along and complain, but I’m glad it’s here.
Deny it if you want to, but down deep you all feel the same way, and anyone who wants to debate this further should meet me at the Chanticleer any time during the next two weeks. (I’ll be the one wearing flip flops and a fur hat.) By the way, yes…it is cold enough for me.