Editorial April 2012
What Have They Done to the Snow?
You probably have to be a certain age—mine for instance—to remember Malvina Reynolds’ folk song “What Have They Done to the Rain?” or the Searchers cover version that topped out at 29th on the Billboard American chart in 1965 (currently available for $0.99 in the iTunes Store). And frankly it’s been a while since I’ve thought about it.
Memory is a funny thing, however. And so it was the other day, while staring at the familiar surroundings outside my office window, I suddenly found myself humming an old familiar tune. It took a while to recall the name of the song, which was, you guessed it, “What Have They Done to the Rain?” And it took another second or two before I got the connection. Yes, the view outside the window was familiar, but it was also strange. What had they done to the snow?
A good question that one, and frankly I haven’t any idea. All I know for sure is that a New England winter without snow is like an egg without a chicken. You can imagine it, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s particularly confusing when a year ago, at this same time, you were staring at six-foot-high snow banks on either side of the street, and wondering where the city had put all the snow they had been continuously hauling away for the past two months. What’s with Mother Nature? Doesn’t she know this is winter, and that we’re in New England?
Isn’t it interesting how much we humans like consistency? And how easily we are confused when our familiar patterns are upset? As a native New Englander, I have expectations about winter, expectations based on multiple decades of actual experience. For starters, a New England winter comes with snow. To be sure, there are New England winters with less snow, and New England winters with more snow, but a New England winter with no snow is outside the pale. In addition, a New England winter is cold, not as cold as say a Wisconsin winter, but cold enough that folks do not wander around outside for extended intervals in sweaters or light jackets even during the daytime. New England winter mornings come with frost on the windshield, breath you can see, and a morning chill best kept at bay with a heavy coat, a knit hat, warm gloves or mittens, and a scarf—but not this year apparently.
So I ask you, dear reader, what are we to make of this? Does the source of confusion lie with Mother Nature or our expectations? Maybe we need to rethink our definition of a New England winter, to be a little more flexible? After all, whatever the view outside, the calendar still says late February, and we’re still in Connecticut. Hard to believe, but apparently true. Change, it happens.
All of which makes me wonder if there might be any parallels here with our current expectations about scholarly publishing. Or should we perhaps just wait for things to return to normal? It could happen almost any day now, couldn’t it?—IER