February 5, 2004

The A Spot

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As of January 28th, according to the Ithaca Climate Page on Cornell’s website, the average temperature for the month was 16.2 degrees Fahrenheit — this includes a week-long warm spell right after New Year’s, when the high was around 60. The interesting thing about this information is not that it points out that we’re running about 7 degrees below “normal” as far as temperature goes, but rather that it’s necessary for Ithaca to have something called a Climate Page.

The weather in Ithaca, especially during the winter months, is not something we who live here (even part-time) take lightly. It’s not just passing scenery, or even intriguing surroundings in which the events of our lives take place — it is an active participant. The outside environment is something to be discussed, plotted against, waded through, and dealt with as an obnoxious neighbor. The “outside” in Ithaca is a thing to do and a place to go, in and of itself.

Nowhere else is the current temperature or cloud cover such a pertinent conversation topic. We discuss wind chill with fervor. If we get a peek at 70 degrees, it’s cause for celebration. When the sun comes out any time between October and April, it’s almost enough to find religion.

Because of this, sometimes the best thing about Ithaca is, unfortunately, leaving it and its weather behind. Winter break, despite its being significantly shorter than summer recess, is often the more appreciated. In May we look forward to making a little money for the fall and becoming a year smarter and closer to graduation. It’s a happy deliverance, one that, at the time, feels more permanent than it really is.

Winter break, on the other hand, inches toward us through the sticky bog of finals and the knowledge that we’ll have to return in a few weeks to do it all over again. Come the middle of December, we’re pulling out our hair, we’ve got no money, we’ve got the beginnings of a nasty case of seasonal affective disorder, and we’re freezing. It’s precisely this emotionally draining combination of ailments that makes Winter Break such a welcome respite. We’ll do anything to beg off exams. We create fictional travel plans, weddings, and grandfathers’ 90th birthday parties: “The only way I can get back to Long Island by Christmas is if I fly. I’d leave later, but my mom has already gotten my non-refundable plane ticket for December 15th