March brought us some good news. The temperature started rising and some warm and timid sunny rays crept into our freezing winter. The snow started thinning away. It also started turning black, like the countenance of a humiliated warrior who can’t do anything about the incumbent defeat. No more snow-slopes on the sidewalks. We got into the habit of contemplating them every day for the past two months. Snow-banks and snow-slopes have now turned into narrow black-and-white strips. It’s a sign that spring is around the corner (or so we hope). There are even days when I can hear spring’s quiet whisper. But the next moment I am brought back again into the wintry reality I was dreaming of leaving behind. Suddenly, the temperature begins to drop and a chilly wind cuts straight to the bones, like a chainsaw. The snow never surrenders till it melts away, until it totally disappears. The snow is stubborn. Winters in these parts of the world are stubborn, springs and summers are fragile and autumns just gorgeous.
I received a message regarding the essay I wrote on the four ages of snow, sent by a friend who belongs to the category of “genuine Bostonians”. He wrote that he found it really funny; at the end of his message he added that, in any case, “snow makes us patient and resilient”. I have often thought about this during the harsh winter. I asked myself whether the snow might really play a decisive role in shaping the singular characters of people living with it. Let me say first that I am rather skeptical of deterministic theories which try to explain human behavior and environment in terms of cause-and-effect. In the past, I have heard people going so far as to explain even the rise of Nazism in Germany based on some weird “environmentalist” theories. According to these “theories” Nazism could have thrived only in freezing and snowy weather because under such conditions people become introverted and get obsessed with discipline. While people living in sunny climates are usually extroverted and inclined towards anarchy. It is not my intention to spend the rest of this sunny and cold day here in Boston trying to contradict/dismiss such “theories”. Just allow me to mention a few facts. The last three fascist dictatorships in Europe were all in sunny places: Greece, Spain and Portugal (they collapsed in the mid-70s). Actually, the most genuine Nazi party in Europe at this very moment is thriving in the south; its name is Golden Dawn and it’s the third biggest political party in Greece.
Traveling and living through North and South I have discovered that human behavior is far more complicated, far more weird, nasty, beautiful, unpredictable and phenomenal than all the meteorological phenomena put together. Nevertheless, this winter, I felt tempted to draw some cultural conclusions while watching people make their way through blizzards. Snow “trains” you to become a skillful observer; into carefully planning your own steps. Snow, especially in its icy version, requires maximum attention while you walk on it. Daydreaming might cost you a broken leg or a broken neck. I have to admit that snow “taught” me to become less distracted and more pragmatic. It happened inadvertently. Therefore, my genuine Bostonian friend might be right; living with snow might make you become more patient, pragmatic and resilient.
Personally I consider human behavior and moral values far more important than weather. What do I mean by this? I mean that if I had to choose between living under an oppressive political regime or under the most oppressive freezing winter I would choose the latter without a second thought. If I had to choose between living surrounded by racists and nationalists or surrounded by nasty weather, intolerable blizzards and icebergs I would choose the latter without a second thought. If I had to choose living in a sunny place without a future or in the coldest place in the whole world where I can re-invent myself I would choose the latter without a second thought.
In his book Traveling with Charley, John Steinbeck writes: "I've lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate." Fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t say the same. Living in a good climate doesn’t bore the hell out of me. Because I have lived for a long time in good climates, perhaps. At the same time, it bores the hell out of me to hear people who come from good climates complain all the time about the cold weather, constantly comparing it with the good weather back home. Sometimes, I have the impression that they are trying hard to project the cause of all their insecurities and failures on the low temperatures or the lack of sun. Winter becomes their scapegoat.
I can’t say I was happy with the harsh winter of this year. I started dreaming of moving toward more “friendly” climates, like California. This winter will remain though unforgettable for me. Not because of the inches of snow and the frequent snow-storm alerts. During one of the worst blizzard-nights, when everything, immobile and mobile, seemed buried under layers of snow and unable to do anything else outside my house, I went to check my mailbox. There was a white envelope in there with “Urgent” written on it. It was from the Immigration Service. I opened it with agony and there was a card in it; its color was green. It was my Green Card, accompanied by a letter which read “Welcome to the United States of America”. I watched the snow falling incessantly outside, covering everything, and I felt something like spring leaping within me.
In the meantime, we all are waiting for spring to come. Exhausted by a very disrespectful winter. Perhaps it’s the southerner within me that makes me feel impatient about the upcoming spring; I want it to be here as soon as possible. I want to listen to its whisper, to feel its melodies intoxicate my mind and my body, to feel the blood moving faster in my veins, to walk daydreaming in the streets while trees and people are coming out of hibernation. Then, when fragile spring finally arrives, stubborn winter will be buried into oblivion. Till next time, when winter will be back again and its snow-banks will invade and occupy the sidewalks once more . Till next time, when winter will be back again, instilling boredom in our souls and “training” us into becoming a bit more patient, pragmatic and resilient…