When, five years ago, we announced our plans to move to Vermont, the response among our friends was 95% negative. \”Do you have any idea how cold it gets up there?\” people shrieked. We could literally go anywhere we pleased, so why not Florida, people wanted to know, or even North Carolina? Those were reasonable choices. But Vermont–hadn\’t we heard about the winters there?
Our first three winters in Vermont, I must confess I was disappointed. It just didn\’t get that cold–no colder, say, than Maryland in the 1970s, before global warming. The last two winters have been more like what I\’d expected, and been warned about. This winter…suffice it to say that I\’ve lost count of how many days it\’s been snowing non-stop. And I love it.
I was born on the shores of the Mediterranean, spent the last years of my childhood on the equator and came of age in the American south. And I have been making my way north ever since. Why?
The answer is: fairy tales. I was brought up on Hans Christian Andersen–The Ice Maiden, The Little Match Girl, The Snow Queen–all stories that take place in unimaginable cold. I was educated by German nuns, and the books they taught us from were full of pictures of villages under snow, children skating, and the dark pyramids of evergreens. Winter was exotic, magical, desirable.
And now I\’m in the midst of it, and it is everything I dreamed it would be. The stillness, the whiteness, the hush–that is where magic and mystery reside.
\”Oh well,\” our friends said, when they realized we were serious about moving to Vermont, \”you can always go south in the winter, if it gets to you.\” If it gets to me? But that\’s exactly what I want, for winter to get to me, and into me. And then spring will really mean something.