Last week, I watched this video of the first snowfall of the season at Notre Dame. While on one level this video makes me really glad I’m not in South Bend right now, since I do not miss the long, brutal winters, on another level…why is it also making me nostalgic? I mean, only Notre Dame can take a November snowstorm and turn it into marketing material, but still…seeing these images bring back a lot of memories. There were seemingly endless winters, long treks fighting against the wind tunnel of South Quad, when every moment outside was spent trying to get inside as quickly as possible and I learned the hard way that I had to actually walk slower than normal through the frigid cold, or else I might slip on the ice. I remember winter boots leaving puddles of slush in the entryway to studio, a crowd of girls sitting near the radiator in my dorm for warmth, scraps of paper decorations adorning our dorm walls after a bout of cabin fever, a plastic dining hall tray being used to sled down a mound of plowed snow in our otherwise flat-as-a-pancake campus.
My sophomore year, a terrible blizzard hit at the end of January, on the day before a project deadline. Consequently, the bad weather didn’t end up mattering to me at all, as I was stuck in studio for about 24 hours straight trying to finish my drawings. (Instead of venturing out into the raging storm to eat at the dining hall, I survived on Golden Oreos and didn’t move from my desk. It was maybe not the healthiest time in my life.) The day of the deadline, when I finally ventured out of my corner to go home and shower before review, I encountered not the storm itself but its aftermath: a silent campus in the early hours of the morning, draped in a thick layer of perfectly untouched snow. I was so enchanted by the way the snow glistened with the light of the sunrise—it honestly looked as though someone had run all around the quad sprinkling glitter all over everything—that I was shaken out of my studio-induced stupor and filled with wonder. Before I stepped outside, I feared the cold weather, already fed up with the severity of this Midwestern winter. It was indeed cold. Very, very cold. And a long day was just beginning, a day where I’d be running on no sleep. But somehow, in light of the snow (or maybe of my own delirium), everything didn’t seem so terrible anymore. As freezing as it was, in that moment the snow was too pretty to hate.
I’m sure all of you in South Bend are rolling your eyes at me, and trust me—I get it. I don’t miss having to scrape my car out of D6 one bit, and I do not envy you right now. And yet. There’s still something so lovely about the way the sun glistens upon a new snowfall. There was a beauty in the quiet rhythm of our winter routines, the layers of scarves, the stillness of a walk across campus when it’s too cold to speak, the candles at the Grotto held within a frame of white powder.
All this being said: I was unprepared for how cold the wind was today in New York. I haven’t done this whole “winter” thing for three years, and I’m not sure I’m ready. Although—even though I haven’t experienced winter in a while, I have been through several rounds of Santa Anas, the biannual high-speed winds that tear through southern California and come bearing sinus infections. Of course it’s not the same as winter, but there were times during the Santa Anas when I felt like I was battling against nature just to walk across the parking lot. Right before I moved away in the spring, the winds outside my apartment were SO loud; they even ripped apart pieces of the palm tree outside my door.
I think wherever I live, there will be times where I need to take shelter from my surroundings, whether it be from heat or cold, wind or humidity. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we need to experience both sides of nature, its pleasantness and its fierceness. Maybe we need to learn how to gird ourselves against the long night as we wait for daylight to return. Sometimes we might even find a simple beauty in the starkness and simplicity of a long, barren winter.
(But please no polar vortex this year.)