Sarah’s Climate Story
Philadelphia, PA 19104
How are you sensing climate change?
I chose not to venture far from home for college. When I introduced myself to my classmates freshman year in Philadelphia, the third or fourth question — after “What’s your name? What are you studying? What dorm are you living in?” — was “Where are you from?”. I would tell them I was from Delaware. “Just Delaware, like an hour away from here.” Many of my new peers were from California, and some comment would be made about how they were going to be surprised by the winters here, and did they have a good coat?
So I thought I would be better prepared for the weather here in Philly, the same climate I’ve lived my whole life in. I spent more time outside coming to college, walking to classes and clubs and studying at a bench under a tree each day, than I did attending high school in the suburbs, where most of my daily schedule was spent indoors, or in the car, or on the school bus. Crossing campus via Locust Walk under the trees whose leaves started to turn brilliant colors made me feel like I was finally soaking in the natural beauty of my home turf, and my experience as I grew up and learned more about myself and the people around me was richer for it.
Then winter arrived, and I was no longer certain that staying close to home meant I knew my surroundings better than anyone who had moved here in August. I remember looking at the “seasons of the year” posters in my preschool classroom — delicate flowers for spring, verdant grasses and leaves for summer, golden ones for autumn, lush snowflakes for winter — and hoping for a white Christmas. Now, many years on, snow fell later in the season, dumping inches of powder late into March. I was a little bewildered by this. Had I simply never paid attention to the weather patterns of my home? I thought I would be able to confidently say to an East Coast transplant — oh, it’s always like this here, don’t expect a snow day until the spring semester. I found that I couldn’t. The turn of the seasons only an hour from the place I’d spent my eighteen years was unpredictable and mysterious to me.
How do these changes make you feel?
This realization makes me feel unmoored, more unsteady as I consider where to move post-grad and prepare to venture beyond an hour’s drive from my childhood home. Because if I can’t count on the familiar patterns of the seasons at home, what else is beyond my control? If I move away and return to my parents’ house to visit for the holidays, will the moments I remember remain? In the face of the suffering unleashed by climate change, this is a very small problem. And yet, it is a deeply personal change in how I experience the world.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
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