Connections: Frozen in Time

I was only too eager for any promise of warm weather

    A friend sent an eBlast this week that offered a balm to the winter-weary soul. Using a service called Paperless Post, his email bore the subject line winter 2014, but its contents, the poem "in time of daffodils" by E.E. Cummings, heralded spring.
In time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remember how
In time of lilacs who proclaim
The aim of waking is to dream. . . .

    We may not quite yet be in the time of daffodils, but I was only too eager for any promise of warm weather, especially after learning that while Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal — Long Island’s own furry prognosticators — have called for an early spring, Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil and Staten Island’s Chuck beg to differ. Both Phil and Chuck say there will be six more weeks of winter. Apparently, Staten Island Chuck has the highest accuracy rate of them all, 82 percent, so he is not a groundhog to be trifled with. Add Chuck’s grim forecast to recent news reports that our hard winter might be attributable to a change in the path of the jet stream itself — due to warming in the Arctic — it looks very like we have a while to wait before the thaw.

    Of course, the record cold has had its silver linings, especially for the young and frisky, who have braved snow, sleet, and hail to sled, make snow angels, start snowball fights, construct igloos, and skate (not to mention gloat over all those days off from school). Like many people our age, my husband and I have quite enjoyed being snowbound, spending long, quiet nights at home, cooking, reading, feeling cozy, and following the Winter Olympics. And when the sun decided to come out while the snow still (as the song goes) lay round about — deep and crisp and even — East Hampton looked more beautiful than ever.

    There’s something about extreme weather — whether it’s a hurricane, a blizzard, or a heat wave — that sets our memories in motion. When I ventured outside to broadcast an ice-melting compound on the front walk and do a little shoveling,  my own thoughts turned to winters past. Unlike my children and their children, I didn’t have very frolicsome winters as a kid, maybe because I wasn’t brought up in the country. I can’t remember ever building a snowman or riding any toboggans down any hills, and I didn’t learn to skate until I was in college.

    One of my happiest remembrances of winter is of skating as an adult on black ice on Montauk’s Fresh Pond. I couldn’t contain my exuberance and burst into song as I went along, imagining I was as graceful as Sonja Henie. I also remember skiing on snowy-but-sunny days even longer ago. I was hardly an athlete, compared to others, but the feeling of skiing in the great outdoors was like none other, almost transcendent. I remember the pride I felt when I mastered a perfect stem Christie. (A stem Christie, which isn’t taught anymore, is described as “a turn made by stemming the uphill ski, transferring weight to its inside edge, and bringing the other ski into a parallel position midway through the turn.”) I can almost see myself, with a big smile that matched my bright-orange parka.

    Another email this week, however, gave me the shivers rather than any foolish hope that this endless winter might soon be ending. Friends who live in Marquette, Mich., on the Upper Peninsula, sent news that their city had broken a record set in 1978 of 72 days of below-freezing weather (with many of those below zero). More than 200 water mains have broken this year in Marquette, the email said; snow banks have risen to six feet, and 98 percent of Lake Superior has frozen. Compared to Michigan, I’d say, East Hampton has been a winter wonderland.