On tromping, big storms, and the way we mark time. Oh, and I’d like to talk to you; that’s really the main point of this week’s newsletter.
It briefly seemed like the season was going to pass without a big snowstorm again. With spring in sight, winter 2023 had delivered our part of the Northeast a half a foot of rain. As for snow, around eight inches total, spread between a handful of events that were more prediction than production. None of it stuck around longer than a day or so, before what used to be an unseasonable afternoon melted it.
Memory is an imperfect measuring stick, but anyone old enough to have joint pain will tell you that winters hit different now. As a kid, I remember snow sticking to the ground for months: long enough, in my lower-Manhattan neighborhood, to acquire a dark gray crust and a state of dessication that seemed impossible for frozen water.
Natives of the small New York town where I now live say that snow usually starts swinging through here in November; it makes more frequent visits in December, and then takes up residence in January and February. At least once a year—usually twice—we get hit with close to a foot. Sometimes more.
Not last year, when the closest we came was a nasty ice storm in February. It was a bummer. Even worse, if recent experience is the future’s playbook, December is now a full-on shoulder season. Keep an ear out for my new hit record, Gray Christmas.
This season, the snow has mainly been interested in Buffalo and the West Coast. Those blizzards and perverse accumulations were terrifying. A friend had to pitch a tent and camp in her own unheated living room to stay warm, her city completely shut down by unrelenting feet of white stuff. People died. And yet, I’ve had to periodically chastise myself for being just a little bit jealous of all that snow. I don’t wish for the dangerous conditions those communities have had to endure, but they’ve reminded me to be grumpy that another northeastern winter would pass without an appropriate snow story.
I like to be in the snow. Not just walking around in the happy white crunchy aftermath, but out in the dark wind, angling my face to keep the flakes from crusting my eyelashes. I tell my daughter stories about the Blizzard of ‘96, when nearly two feet fell on New York City and winter vacation stretched by a week. She loves hearing about my early-morning tromp through drift-covered avenues and my snowball fight with friends in Union Square.
Every tradition tells tales that begin with weather. And many of us who choose to live in regions where the years are demarcated by seasons do so because we crave the stories that transpire as the world outside transforms. That’s why the prospect of two winters in a row without a time-stamping snowstorm had me so blue. This winter would pass without a good story.
And then on Tuesday we got smacked. A foot of snow. We lost power for more than a day and made s’mores in the wood stove. We trundled across the hayfield to feed our neighbor’s stranded cat. We made a snowman with “so many arms.” Why am I telling you this?
It’s dangerous to mistake the weather for the climate. Global Warming does not mean that every season everywhere will get warmer; though across this country, winters are growing shorter and less cold every year. one5c is, in a sense, a story about the weather in our future, as the changing climate makes extreme storms and atmospheric rivers more common and intense. The implicit or else in every action highlighted is that our stories will get heavier, as the consequences shift from missed school to catastrophic loss.
Stories are why I do what I do, and the same is true for every other journalist I know. Some chose this profession to tell stories about people. Some tell stories about innovation. Or food. Or travel or cars or politics or power—and so on. A couple years ago, I realized that only one story mattered to me: the environment, and how we could all take part in preserving it.
As I come up on a year and a half of telling this story full-time, I wanted to check back in with the people who listen. Last year, several of you were generous enough to spend time telling me what you wanted from one5c. I hope you’ve recognized your requests and feedback in these newsletters. I’m sorry to those of you I didn’t get to call, but after dozens of interviews, I needed a break.
Now’s your second chance. Over the next month, I’ll be interviewing readers every day, and I’d love to talk to you. (Not you, Mom; but feel free to FaceTime.) Please drop me an email if you have 30 minutes to chat about what you’d like to see in one5c. My email is below, or you can click this button 👇
Take care of yourself—and the rest of us, too.