Back in December, I wrote an essay about how much I liked snow.
That was December.
Now it’s March, and after what was admittedly a mild and unusually pleasant February, it’s snowing again. Only this isn’t that softly falling gentle stuff that piles up into beautiful white blankets over everything. It’s mucky nasty sleety snow that pelts but doesn’t stick, and it’s accompanied by the kind of frantic wind that ensures that the little icy pinpricks get in everywhere, no matter how you struggle to hold them off with your sad little inside-out umbrella. Slush puddles up at every corner, lurking in wait for the shoes you thought you could wear now because it’s basically spring. (Earlier today we watched in horror as a man climbed out an office window across the street, stood unsecured on the snowy ledge, and cleaned the window.)
Spring in New York is the trickster season, the time of taunting from the skies — the time of year when I inevitably start fantasizing about a nice house in the redwoods somewhere north of San Francisco. One day it’s 64 degrees so you take the lining out of your coat, and then the next day it snows. You get a gorgeous Friday and a gorgeous Saturday, so you decide to go for a walk in the park on Sunday and it’s freezing rain. For three months you keep looking at the trees with their little red nubbins of what will one day be leaves, but they’re not leaves yet. No one has done any outdoor sprucing since last September, and the bare trees and underpopulated streets are strewn with garbage.
And everyone is stir-crazy, having been confined to small indoor spaces for months. It’s three days running now that I’ve seen people cursing each other on the subway for the inevitable slights of rush hour: blocked doorways, accidental bumpings. This morning in the Union Square station I saw two women shrieking at each other, faces inches apart. Summer heat waves are more likely to spark collective riots, but nothing beats late winter/early spring for sheer personal bitterness.
There is, however, a payoff. There will come a day — the day — when the weather will change. One day, maybe in May if we’re lucky, maybe in late June if we’re not, the drizzle will inexplicably give way and it will be 78 degrees and sunny. And that first day of real summer is like nothing you can ever experience with California weather. It’s like recovering from an illness and falling in love and discovering beauty all at once, and everyone else is doing it too. Suddenly the world is full of people again, with shapes — one year Jenny overheard one Wall Street type say to another, “See? They have legs again!” People smile at each other in the line at the smoothie bar, they pet each other’s dogs. New York becomes a pleasure again, a sensual street theater, the perfect place to wander for hours.
But that’s all months away. For now, there is muck in the sky, curses in the subway, and another week to go before it’s even spring.