David L Ryan/Globe Staff
We’ll always have Wednesday.
That was the day when, for the first time since approximately August, the temperature crept above 20 degrees. The salt on our permafrost driveways finally began to dig in and do its magic. The sun was bright, and you could walk outside without immediately risking frostbite. What a treat!
It’s a sad condition when a fairly standard winter day qualifies as some kind of respite, but here we are again: wrestling our snow blowers through blizzard conditions and girding ourselves for the next cold snap.
Winter in New England is always up and down — picturesque beauty punctuated by brutal battles with the elements. So why does this stretch of slightly-worse-than-typical weather feel so unnecessarily punitive? So uniquely hopeless?
Maybe it’s the cold spell that preceded the storm. For a week that has felt much longer than seven days, temperatures have hovered in the single digits, which is about how many digits you have left on your hands and feet if you spent any time outside. After that, whiteout conditions — “disorienting,” the weathervane jockeys call them — are not exactly the light at the end of the tunnel we were hoping for.
In fact, there is no light; there’s not even a tunnel. If you see something that looks like light or warmth, approach it with caution. It’s probably the raging fires of hell.
Maybe it’s the cold spell to come that has made this start to 2018 so disheartening. If your pipes froze this week and thawed on Wednesday, get ready for an unrequested encore. Because by the time we all emerge from our brand new ice-dam igloos on Friday, the high is forecast to be 3. It’ll be 22 in Anchorage, which is enough to trigger dreams of rustic sunlit afternoons spent fur-trapping or logging or whatever goes on in Alaska these days.
Certainly the specifics of this storm haven’t helped comfort our ailing psyches, either. I’ve spent many years in intensely snowy sections of South Dakota and Western New York, but had never made note of the term “bomb cyclone,” which seems designed to evoke maximum terror. “Undergoing bombogenesis” doesn’t have the same we’re-all-going-to-die ring to it.
Did all the meteorologists get together and come up with a list of ever-more-fearsome names for weather events? Fast forward to February and we’ll all be cowering in the face of a torture tornado or skullcrusher system and the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore will be broadcasting live from a buoy a few hundred yards off the beach in Nahant. Here’s one hard and fast weather rule to live by: If you look out the window and see a hard-core national weatherman setting up a live shot, leave town immediately.
Or maybe this malaise is strictly personal — a ferocious storm timed perfectly to alight alongside a reminder of my own mortality and middle age. That’s right: Thursday morning, I’m celebrating my 40th birthday by wading nipples deep into the post-storm snowbank that always surrounds my car.
Numerical age may not mean much, especially since I’m already bald and fat anyway. But psychology can be every bit as real as physiology, and reenacting Jack Nicholson’s death in “The Shining” is not how I pictured the big 4-0.
Psychology, after all, is what gets us tied up in knots before these big storms.
It’s what sends us scurrying to the supermarket to buy bread and milk, even though it’s hard to imagine two more perishable items. Psychology is what makes a storm at the end of a historic cold snap seem so much worse than one at the beginning. But it’s also what binds us together after the wind dies down, and what brings us to each other’s houses and doorsteps with our shovels and snow blowers.
We’ll burrow out of this one the way we always do, emerging on whichever side of 40 we happen to find ourselves, ready for the next “clobber cloud” or “sarcophagus death hail.”
Maybe I’ll let the bomb cyclone blow out my birthday candles.
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