Climate Change: Culture Change
By Dr. Meg
A lack of snow in Western New York State reveals the adaptation which already becomes necessary for residents. If New York was ever the Empire State, snow seemed the breath of God, raging for half of every year here.
Now that breath appears occasionally as mist when cool air creeps over the warm earth. It comes and goes as Empires do. If a hole has developed in the ozone layer high above this earth, it could hardly be more daunting than confronting a landscape without its weather.
This area was history on the hillside every year. Just as the glaciers once withdrew from this state, dragging their bodies with long fingers, so every spring saw the heavy-weight snowfall withdraw again, releasing human kind and unkind from a beautiful white prison.
Tobogganing allowed that prison to become a playground for children and sprites of every age. The Cassadaga Country Club transformed its golf course into a slick run. There, adolescent boys steered those toboggans so that the girls, riding in front, of course, would feel a whole mountain of snow fall upon them—as the boys drove straight for the drifts, and shrieked with laughter.
As the lakes in this region froze and refroze, creating Olympic quality ice-rinks, whole villages gathered on ice-skates, looping like birds on the loose. Those who clung to hearth and home on such occasions could look out their windows and view Currier and Ives paintings come to life, and know Art was as real as their eyes.
Now, the parkas hang in the closet, along with the hand-knit sweaters, the long underwear, the ski-hats, mittens, and leather boots. Frost bite claims no victims. Nobody complains about chill-blains, or races to the fireplace to snuggle together over hot cocoa. Cars race by as they would in June or July. The year has lost its rhythm.
If this apparent climate change continues, all the songs and poetry dedicated to a Winter Wonder-Land will lose their meaning for future residents. Modern realistic paintings portraying white landscapes here will be as distant from understanding as Bruegel’s “Hunters Returning Home,” evidence of a time when people went over cliffs without knowing why.
So, now at least we know why people once did rain dances: It wasn’t just for the crops. It was for visions which were real once upon a time.