We’re New Englanders. We are the ones that look at winter weather and laugh in its face. We eat nor’easters for breakfast around here alongside beans and maple sausage. Forecast calls for a foot of snow? Hold my Dunkins’. I got this. Harsh winters come with the territory and it doesn’t phase us. We just deal.
That doesn’t mean we don’t look forward to Spring. Cold weather takes its toll on all of us and even though we don’t fret over a little snow, we still crave the feel of warm sun on our faces. Never is that more apparent than on days when the temperature begins to climb. Days like this past Sunday when the thermometer hit the sixty degree mark. In the middle of February. On Presidents’ Day Weekend.
That’s not normal. A bit of a weather anomaly. What’s behind it all? Global Warming? La Niña? Roger Goodell? Who knows for sure. But our response to the unseasonable weather was exactly what you would expect from hardy New Englanders. We went outside. I think we all did. We came out in droves.
Downtown Newport on a typical Sunday in February can be busy. There are vacationers exploring the fabled city, locals sitting down for good food and drink, wedding parties meandering around still celebrating the last of their special weekend – your typical Newport offseason action. You can find parking spots (usually without a fee). The waits at restaurants are usually short if at all, and the people walking on the sidewalks are walking quickly so as not to be exposed to the cold air for longer than they have to be. On a sixty degree Sunday afternoon in February however, that all changes. Suddenly people emerge. All kinds of people. All soaking in the sun. We’re like squirrels that have been hibernating, hesitantly taking the first cautious steps out into the sunshine and then scurrying about without care searching for food and fun.
We had plans on Sunday to go to the Brick Alley Pub on Thames Street in Newport for a birthday gathering. There’s usually always a wait there on a Sunday afternoon so with a big party, we had the foresight to make reservations. All we had to do was just get there. That’s when we saw it. Traffic everywhere – slowly creeping along the narrow cobblestone streets in the area. Everyone was looking for that open parking spot, but they were few and far between. Even parking lots that are usually the safe bets for spots in the offseason were not only full, but some were even charging for parking. Plus there was foot traffic. Random people suddenly walking across busy streets without care. They were sun crazed – oblivious to the dangers of walking in traffic. Blinded by joy of being in the warm sun, they would just walk out in between moving cars. That slowed things down even more. Sidewalks were full. People were everywhere – like the height of summer traffic. Coats were off, strollers were out, shorts were even making their first appearance of the year. It’s like we had never seen a sunny day before.
Look at your Instagram feed from Sunday too. So many sun emojis. Everyone had to document themselves as being outside and in the sun. There were people playing in parks on muddy, wet fields. The beaches were busy too – sun worshippers paying homage to the sands that hold their summer future. Joggers, bicyclers, dog walkers and even car washers. They were all out as if this was normal. It was a bizarre phenomenon. There was still snow on the ground. Piles of it on the corners. But the people came out. They had tasted the warmth of the sun and wanted more.
Maybe Spring is coming. This week is supposed to be pretty mild, so maybe we’ve turned the corner. But as they say, this is New England, so wait a few minutes and see what happens to the weather. Snow or sun, we are ready for it. That’s what we do here in New England. We roll with it. But a sixty degree day in February makes us drop our chill demeanor, if just for a moment. We turn from hardy men and women who make fires in our home from wood we chopped by hand into excited little pixies dancing across streets because the sun is out. We were all giddy with Springtime joy on Sunday which only means we’ve spent a little too much time indoors and out of the cold. Hold strong my fellow New Englanders. We’ve got a few more weeks to go (but don’t miss the sunshine while we got it).