Forget what the calendar says: Winter started on Thursday.
There’s something about the first real cold snap and snowfall that makes it seem like it was never warm — like it’s been cold forever. You could tell me the World Series ended eight months ago and I’d believe you.
“It’s really true,” said Dr. Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist at Mass. General and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “I think everybody kind of clutches at their heart when they realize winter is coming on November 15th this year.”
Come on. Already?
The symptoms of our case of early-onset winter are textbook. Everybody forgot how to drive. The commuter rail immediately went to hell. There’s snow on the patio furniture you haven’t put away yet. There’s snow on the grill. There’s snow melting into a foul slurry that somehow seems colder than regular snow.
And how are we supposed to rake these leaves that have fallen on top of the snow? These leaves are not rakable. They’re going to be sliming up the whole area for months.
If someone tells you spring is “right around the corner,” you are legally entitled to all the money in their wallet and you can burn their mittens in a little pile on the sidewalk for warmth.
“We’re in the middle of leaf pickups. We’ve got bags of leaves all over town that are now in snowbanks and soaking wet,” said Billerica Town Manager John Curran, whose town got blasted with 9 inches of snow overnight.
“I like a little dusting right around Christmas,” Curran said. But if he wanted 9 inches in the middle of November he’d move to the mountains.
“Who knows when we’re going to see the ground again?”
On Thursday night, the town’s crew was ready to roll and got the streets taken care of. But some of their contractors weren’t ready and no-showed.
“We managed all right. It’s always important to get the first one right. That’s what people remember,” Curran said. If you botch the first storm, though, everyone spends the whole winter cursing you every time they hit a pothole.
“Thankfully it was sort of an overnight storm,” Curran said.
“What’s interesting about Boston winters is that people think of them as dark and cold — and they are cold,” said Olds. “But we get a lot more sun than places like San Francisco and Seattle.”
And there’s a lot of scientific evidence that it’s the lack of sunlight, not the frigid air, that leads not just to widespread grumpiness but to more serious mental health problems.
“Most studies regarding clinically significant seasonal mood changes such as seasonal affective disorder have been linked to decreased sunlight during the winter months,” said Dr. Dominic Wu, a family health physician at Cambridge Health Alliance.
Light therapy may help those suffering from seasonal affective disorder, Wu said, and therapy lamps are now widely available.
And even if your symptoms are less serious, a half-hour sitting in your most sunlit window in the morning can go a long way, Olds said, lowering melatonin and increasing serotonin.
Of course none of that does much good when your jeans are soaked through five minutes after you’ve stepped outside to shovel.
There’s a reason the demon at the center of Dante’s Inferno isn’t bathing in lava but frozen in ice, his wings beating a frigid, ceaseless wind. (My own version of Dante’s Inferno involves everyone confusing me with Dante Ramos.)
Olds’s prescription for the cold was a little less scientific: long underwear.
“Very thin, but incredibly warm,” she said. “You have this extra layer that makes you not feel like you’re going to die when you go outside.”Nestor Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.