This week was the first snowfall in Brunswick, always the most welcomed. December has a way of wiping everything clean, as if the very environment is preparing for the New Year’s proverbial clean slate. This New Year feels shaky; our next semester and my final semester at Bowdoin will begin as our country begins a new chapter, a slate that feels dirty before it’s even arrived. 

The Maine winter changes our ability to interact with our environment and marks an enormous (if oft-despised) part of what makes this place what it is. The cold and the snow are some of the most common topics any non-Mainer will raise with a Bowdoin student, and we’ve all probably spent about a cumulative week of our Bowdoin experience bemoaning the weather—because it was 25 degrees last night, and I wear a coat when it’s 65. 

On Monday as the snow fell like a slow exhalation, I went to the Commons to take a walk. Not yet icy but already sparkling, the paths are familiar and new again. Stopping with my friend by the pond, he threw dead branches against the slushy ice to watch it splatter with satisfying cracks. 

The pine branches are dressed in layers of crystal, the bare twigs of deciduous trees white-capped like tiny waves. Shake them hard and the snow will explode into flurries before trembling down to settle on the ground.

My Maine winters come in contrast to 18 years of Brooklyn winters, with their rare moments of stillness amongst the grey slush and the immediate sweat upon stepping from the cold streets into the heated subway cars. New York winters are ice skating in the parks and scurrying to coffee shops; they are as cozy and crowded as the city can be. They’re also grimy. 

My Maine winters have been wearing sweaters and two coats and at least two hand-knit scarves to hustle across campus and burst into a building to finally feel the blood rushing back into my face. They have been running out onto the frozen ice at Simpson’s Point with the same giddy feelings that bubble while swimming there in the summer. They have been waking in the dark of 5:30 a.m. to drive to Popham and watch the sun stretch up and out over the untouched swathes of snow reaching the foam on the beach. 

Winter is also the exploration of inward places, the mornings spent watching snow through the window and just staying inside, the nights doing homework huddled under blankets because your off-campus house has “horsehair” insulation (which doesn’t seem to do much insulating at all). Winter is both the squirrels conserving energy in their drays and the dogs ploughing wildly through the snow on the quad. 

Finding the ways to connect and commune with this place in its literal darkest times has brought a stability and cyclicality to my time at Bowdoin. Also, after visiting Texas in July and realizing that oppressive heat makes it just as impossible to be outside for longer than five minutes as the cold does, I’m trying to see even the temperature as an equal part of the whole season. 

No matter the season, and even no matter the turmoil of that particular season, I think nature can be an antidote—even if that antidote is best taken from inside a cozy house. The ingrained symbolism of seasons is not lost on my cosmological sentimentality as fall becomes winter, which looks forward to spring. 

This winter will be marked by uncertainty and fear and radical changes. I want it to also be marked with the reaffirmation of the determined beauty of the natural world, and as much good, old-fashioned playing in the snow as my toes can take.