It’s official: there’s been a record snowfall in New York City this January. An additional 15 inches fell in Central Park during this latest storm, bringing the total to 37.1 inches for this winter. Since the normal snowfall for the entire winter in NYC is 22 inches—and we still have a long way to go whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2—this weather is making life miserable for most of us (unless you count the smiling and happy kids). Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg conceded defeat this time and rightly declared a Snow Emergency and closed the schools.
So I am raising a white flag. Mother Nature, you win. I am humbled by your awesome power and the majesty of your brushstroke. Going out early this morning, everything seemed to have been imbued with white in artistic spattering, as if the old Gal dabbed her hands across window screens and storm doors. The patterns of the blasts of ice and snow were intermittent, as if almost done intentionally to shatter light and bring focus on a particular cluster of frosty images of cold, crystalline beauty.
There is no doubt a message in all this to us city dwellers similar to the one sent by Klaatu in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. We may think we are invincible, that we are immune to the universe around us, and can go on doing whatever it is that pleases us at the expense of all things natural. This is a reality check. Mother Nature is telling us, “I can stop you cold. I can put you in the deep freeze and let you stew. I can close your airports, shut down your transit, and send you back to the Dark Ages if I like.”
Today it seems that way. Everything has stopped again. There is beauty and majesty in the hush thrown over the city, a city that is usually like what the poet William Wordsmith described as the “world that is too much with us.” The ever moving, non-stopping metropolis is polarized and encased in ice. We are forced to reckon with the unimaginable concept that we are vulnerable, mortal, and at the mercy of something much greater than ourselves.
I walked back home when I found the corner store shuttered. Humbled yet again by this winter, I have to make my own coffee, forgo the comfort of readily available bagels and muffins, and deal with my kids brimming with excitement. They know so much more than we do, but sometimes we’re hesitant to recognize their wisdom. They want to play and, if just for today, I’m going to forget the worries of the world and dive into that snow with them. Oh, and I may even share with them my secret snowball-making technique. Sorry, can’t divulge that here.
So today the world is white: a stark and stoic reminder that we had all better not take Mother Nature for granted. Those of you old enough may recall that old margarine commercial’s iconic line, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!” I think most of my fellow New Yorkers will definitely agree with that at this point. We raise the white flag, Mother Nature. You win. Now, please, give us a break!