The calendar says winter arrived at 5:44 this morning. Meteorologists would tell you it appeared on Dec. 1 – the start of the year’s three coldest months. But if you were to ask Western New Yorkers, they’d probably say it began last Wednesday. That’s the day the mercury plunged, the lake threw a fit and the people of this hardy region came into their own.
We understand winter. It is infused in the Western New York psyche and is, in that sense, a part of us. We can’t help but admire its brittle beauty. It is even, perhaps, the soul of our being – the part of us that triggers our helpful spirit, our deep generosity and our ability to persevere through hard times.
Think how Buffalo reacts to a blizzard. We help. When commuters have trouble driving home, pedestrians offer their cellphones so messages can get through. We push cars out of snowbanks. We shovel one another’s sidewalks and steps. We check on our neighbors. That’s us.
It is possible, apparently, that these things also occur elsewhere, given persistent and evidently credible reports that kind people live in other places, too. But none beats Western New York for its hard-won hospitality and friendliness under duress.
That trait may have many sources, but prominent among them is the Buffalo winter, fed not just by the tilt of the Earth’s axis and a plunging jet stream. We have the additional and temperamental influence of Lake Erie, which manufactures snow in quantities that dwarf the amounts that fall in other cities. We are buried and we persevere. We are tough.
People are generally made of sterner stuff than they understand, of course. We all deal with what comes our way. That’s human nature. But what comes our way in Buffalo is a long, cold winter. Each year, it tests our mettle and each year, we surmount its challenges.
That not only girds us against other hard times, but gives us a special appreciation for the spring, which, when it arrives, is as welcome as presents under the tree. Winter makes spring better and deepens the appreciation of summer days that stretch long into the late-night hours.
But that’s another editorial.
It’s not that everyone loves winter, heaven knows. Brutally cold and unmercifully snowy, it is both challenging and limiting. It takes patience. Those who don’t ski or skate or otherwise enjoy the season’s cantankerous nature may prefer a fireplace and a snifter of cognac. But that, too, is winter.
So, depending where you weigh in on winter’s love/hate scale, you can take this as a warning or (cold) comfort: only three months until spring.
Regardless, here we go.