February 10, 2022

OLGUÍN | An Ode to Winter

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I’ve never experienced seasons before. In my life before Ithaca, I’ve tragically been subject to the horrid weather of southern California: Constant sun and a low of 50 degrees in December. Such a wicked existence I’ve lived! 

But in all seriousness – living in Ithaca was the first time I experienced the changing tides of climate. The humidity, wet sun and heat at the end of an Ithaca summer as I moved into Jameson Hall my freshman year was unlike the hot summers of Los Angeles. And as I began my year meeting new friends and swimming in gorges with hallmates, I experienced summer’s end with the excitement of an unfamiliar but fabled college beginning. 

Then, I witnessed the reluctant onset of Ithaca’s autumns, teeming with color. The yellow, orange and red-hued leaves were unlike any scene I’d ever seen before. Fall was windy, orange, crisp, and I quickly found out that I actually do have a favorite season. 

Then the tides turned. I felt my first frigid cold, and I thought I could manage with the wrong shoes. I met Ithaca Winter for the first time, and I thought that I really wanted to go home. Disliking winter was a common sentiment, shared by my peers all around me. Seeing friends, going out, staying up late at the library — all were made dreadful in the now-freezing weather. Sometimes, it was easier to just stay home and avoid a winter that had caught me ill-equipped to face it. 

So now, stepping back into in person classes, waddling through the white snow turned brown slush— I meet Ithaca Winter for the last time.

Oh, Winter. I despise the slush and the icy sidewalks, and I really don’t like falling. I’m currently nursing a tender blue bruise on my knee from last week’s fall, the first of the season. Winter can take its toll on us. Even as we’ve all scrambled back on campus together, winter has a tendency to feel isolating — especially for those of us who might not be used to this. Seasonal depression is real, and it makes a return this time of year. In the hustle and bustle of a return to in-person classes, our professors and our peers, even we, can forget that. 

In the snowstorm last week, I took a walk at midnight with some friends. It was something about the heavy snowfall, our steps being the first on the pristine white canvas and seeing the sleds down the slope at midnight, that reflected a high-on-life feeling. I was reminded of how warm winters can be when you’re in community and with the people you love. I learned that I’ve been sleeping on the beauty of the biting cold and of Ithaca in the winter. 

So now, I can’t help but stop and breathe in the frigid air, have fun hopping over a slushy sidewalk or just stop to take yet another picture of a cold sunset. So this is an ode to Ithaca Winter, which has always so gently and humbly slapped me in the face every January, reminding me to wear another layer and my boots, even if I thought today would be a sneakers-and-jeans type of day. I’m realizing there’s no better way to get through a cold winter without some warmth by your side and a reflective appreciation of Ithaca’s beauty. 

All this to say, I’m a sun-loving girl whose secret love is the snow. I don’t know how to shovel, and I have slipped several times on my front porch. But there’s a special kind of warm feeling that comes from taking in the Vitamin D rays on frosty afternoons that is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in the summer. I’ve learned not to take these seasons for granted, and I’m learning more and more to be grateful for the frigid snowy nights, friends who bake bread and my last time experiencing an Ithaca winter.

Vanessa Olguín is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Long Story Short runs every other Friday this semester.