On a hot day in a hot week in the early part of March, I am tempted to call this blog post, “Remember Snow?” As people walk into our 1900 barn, –where we save land, the ultimate carbon sink–, they exult over “this lovely day.”
All day I tried to correct them: “It’s tragic!”
“Why?!,” they’d demand.
“Climate change,” I’d retort, mourning in my voice.
“Oh, well,” says the first entrant, with a dismissive wave of the hand. If I give up on climate change – o, please may I never give up upon calling attention to this debacle – today will have been my tipping point.
On the phone, I attempted to correct a hunter, also pleased that it is nearing seventy degrees. When I used the dread ‘C Words’, he chuckled. “Oh, that won’t be upon us for some time yet…” His voice reveals that he too may have been using dismissive gestures.
Only a handful of people dare admit to me, as I literally sit in a barn with its doors thrown open to the March heat, “I happen to be a lover of winter. This year is a fizzle.”
Yes, YES! Realize this. Snow is part of a significant and crucially necessary cycle. Without it, nature’s processes are seriously skewed.
Snow, with its accompanying low temperatures, blesses fox habitat, killing microbes in their dens that otherwise doom these animals to the dire death of mange. Ice covering a bay, such as Barnegat, permits new healthy foxes to scamper across to Island Beach, strengthening the vulpine tribe.
Snow on the mountains creates snow pack, ‘designed’ to hold water not meant to be released until the droughty months ahead. This is particularly essential in states such as Oregon. But New Jersey, the Garden State, requires her snow, too. My mother used to call snow “nature’s fertilizer,” particularly rejoicing in late blizzards. Something about nitrogen and she could see visible improvements, thereafter, in her garden.
The mailman countered, “You want snow? Move to Minnesota.” I lived in Minnesota in the first years of marriage to a Mayo-training urologist. Yes, snow, whiteout snow, ‘blowing and drifting snow’, the norm and fifteen inches on my first fifteenth of April.
I want snow, now, when it belongs here, doing its sweet silent work.
Face it, we should ALL want snow.
I remember soft swathes of flakes circling down each Aspen night, frosting the long blonde hair of my teen-aged daughters. The girls in their long skirts and clunky after-ski boots, our family family made its silent nightly way on foot to yet another intriguing dinner. In the morning, new snow would cushioned long sweet sweeps through Big Burn and into a forest, where we sort-of slalomed in and out of ancient trees. Their boughs were thick with snow pillows.
At the very top, each dawn, flaky frost would surround tree branches, and even float through the air, all rainbowed and fascinating. There is no silence, not even a cathedral’s, to equal that on a chairlift through snowed forests.
At home in Princeton, snow meant ‘a snow day’, the ‘telephone tree’ informing us that PDS was closed. Fires in the fireplaces in the morning, and chicken soup steaming up the windows, so we could barely see the universal whiteness outside. Cardinals dancing in and out of flakes and shadows, surrounding our bountiful feeders. A raptor zooming over to snatch the neck among steaming chicken bones I negotiated my way through confusing drifts to place at the edge of our woods.
Sitting on the hearth, playing our guitars and singing folk songs. If it were the right kind of snow, (this was the 1970’s), snowmen – only my girls insisted on snow-women, of course. We didn’t always have a carrot for a nose, and never coal. Snow meant the cats wouldn’t go out the front door into it, insisting on the back – as though there wouldn’t be any snow out there.
Well, if we had those cats now, there wouldn’t be any snow out any doors.
Think about it, at seventy degrees in March. If it’s this many degrees hotter than March norms, how will August be?
Flowers are opening months earlier than they should – what will the pollinators do?
Goldfinches at my Lawrenceville feeders are turning gold under their wings. Does that mean they’re thinking breeding thoughts? And where will the insects be to feed their premature young?
You’ve heard it before. We’ve ignored it before.
The snow quantities in these pictures are brought to us, via our insistence upon fossil fuels, by Catastrophic Climate Change.
There is no ‘if’ about climate change. My Climate Change Reader, edited by legendary Bill McKibben, proffers 100 years of writing (pro and con) on this subject. McKibben dared author his his tome heralding our planet’s gravest crisis (The End of Nature) in 1989. Is anybody listening?
When Pogo asserted, “We have seen the enemy and he is us,” he was not considering climate.
We have seen the future, and it is now.
You don’t want to be in sleeveless tops and running shorts in March.
At the very least, write your senators, representatives and editors and urge them to grapple with this most significant issue of our time, immediately and effectively now.
HOW IT SHOULD BE IN WINTER:
It’s not just snow that’s endangered. It’s the planet itself, and we ourselves are part of what Elizabeth Kolbert titles “The Sixth Extinction.”