In my part of the world, spring has officially arrived. It’s been here for a number of weeks now. I’ve definitely felt it, mostly through my allergies and by not having to wear a coat every time I take the trash out. For the most part, I welcome the change in seasons. I’ve been sick of winter and cold weather for a while now. I look forward to wearing shorts, going to the beach, and reading comic books by the pool.
But even though another winter has come and gone, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on just how unique this past winter was for me. Because this past winter, that ran from late 2022 to early 2023, was the first winter I’ve ever experience that didn’t have a single snowstorm.
Yes, there were a few cold, cloudy days in which some snow flurries fell.
Yes, there were weeks on end in which it was cold, cloudy, and felt very much like winter.
But for the first time in my life, going all the way back to my earliest memories as a kid, this winter did not include any significant snowfall. There was never a point in this past winter in which the grass outside my home was completely covered by snow. There wasn’t even a point where I had to use my snow shovel or the brush I use to clean the snow off my car.
Now, I’m not going to go on some elaborate rant about how this is a sign of climate change and we should all be very concerned. We shouldn’t need a mild, snow-free winter to be concerned about that. Those issues are already well-documented. Instead, I want to keep things within a certain perspective.
This rare occurrence of a snow-free winter is not entirely unprecedented. The last time this region of the United States got so little snow was in the early 1970s. I was not alive for that, so I don’t know the circumstances. But I’ve lived in the same general area of the United States for my entire life. In every single winter I’ve been through, there has been at least one snowstorm. Not having one this year was oddly jarring.
I won’t say whether it’s a good or bad thing. I certainly enjoyed not shoveling snow for an entire winter. I also enjoyed driving on roads not entirely covered with ice and rock salt. It was just so strange, going an entire winter without snow. It completely went against my concept of a normal winter.
I’ve certainly had winters that were abnormal in the opposite manner. Back in the early-2010s, my area endured a winter that had record snowfall that left me stranded in my home for nearly an entire week. That year had so much snow that I seriously considered planning my retirement in a tropical climate so I would never have to shovel snow again. Believe me, I don’t miss that kind of winter.
But I didn’t see that winter as abnormal. I just saw it as a particularly bad winter. Most every other winter I’ve endured has had one or several snowstorms that required shoveling, rock salt, and a few days of icy roads. That was my concept of normal. Now, I feel like that concept has expanded.
Set aside the politics surrounding climate change and global warming. Just think about all the major weather events you’ve experienced in your life. Whether you life on the east coast of the United States, a tropical climate in the south, or the some other region that have different kinds of seasons, your idea of “normal weather” is shaped by those events. You always remember the extremes. But you don’t always appreciate just how much those extremes skew your perspectives.
I feel like this past winter has broadened my personal perspective. It showed that there can be a winter without any significant snowstorms, just as there can also be a winter in which there are multiple blizzards the cripple the region. What lies in between is what I might consider normal, along with others who also live in this area. It helps us better understand what’s possible in this area, weatherwise, than we might have otherwise assumed.
I’m sharing this insight because, beyond the weather, we all have a certain concept of “normal.” Every now and then, something happens that changes what we think of as normal. It can be jarring, but it need not be scary or distressing. Much like the weather itself, these changes happen and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. We can only adapt as best we can. But it can also help just as much to embrace these new concepts of normal.