Lessons of winter

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A student from Lima tells me that the chief lesson New York has taught him is the change of seasons. “In Lima the weather is always more or less the same, with a difference of maybe ten degrees between summer and winter.” Until he came here he had never worn so much clothing; never knew what cold was. A Brazilian girl tells me of her own discovery of the seasons when she came to Europe. Until then she had lived in Río, in a paradise outside time. She only noticed the monotony of that paradise when the color of leaves began to change in the parks of European cities, the softness of sunny days, the surprise of early sunsets in November. Only in Europe, and then in New York, she had learned of the cyclical, orderly return of the seasons.

When the first Europeans came here in 1609 they were surprised at the height of the trees, the thickness of the woods, the rude health of the natives. Most of Europe was already deforested. In the crowded, filthy cities of Europe, epidemics proliferated. After a while, they saw that the healthiness of this land had to do with the cold winters that exterminated parasites and kept plagues under control. But nowadays central heating gives warmth to the cockroaches and rats, and food thrown into the garbage provides a steady source of nourishment.