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No, Really, It’s Winter

Spiritual Smart Aleck

According to all the calendars I have, winter begins with the solstice, on the twenty-first of December or thereabouts. I say that’s broccoli, and I say the hell with it.

Okay, perhaps you are not as big a fan of New Yorker cartoons as I am, and that reference is lost on you, but what I mean is, if this isn’t winter, it’s a mighty cold autumn. Yesterday it snow-rained for hours. Nothing stuck of course, but icy particles were falling out of the air. For hours. This morning it is 38 degrees Fahrenheit on my kitchen porch.
I think I have to go with the Celts on seasons. For them winter begins with Samhain (Halloween) and runs through November, December, and January. When I consider the actual experience of weather around here, that makes a lot more sense to me than waiting until the shortest day of the year to call it winter.

Usually we have a storm, and/or a freeze in later November, before or around Thanksgiving. Often it’s a Pacific cyclone, strong winds that topple trees and break power lines and leave us freezing in the dark.

We had a wood-fired range before we remodeled the house in 1987, and I’ve had reason to miss it, though I can still cook on top of the wood stove that provides heat when the electricity is off. Improvise, improvise, improvise.
In December, well, who knows? It might be forty-three degrees and overcast and rainy all month with no weather events.

Or it might snow a couple of feet.

Or it might freeze our world solid, and everyone will be out skating on Fisher Pond and having a great time, and the poor high school kids marching through town for the lighting of the Christmas tree will be freezing their little tushies off, while their brass instruments drip when warm breath hits cold metal.

I believe it was Hanukah Eve, December, 2006, when the snow came and the entire island lost electricity. The first day people were in the grocery stores, which were running on generators, laughing and sharing stories. It was a great adventure. That wore off fast.

It was five days before the lights came on at our house, and we were not the last ones to get our electricity back. That was hard. I think of the people of Puerto Rico now, who have been without power for weeks, when I remember how hard it felt to do without power for five days. We still had water, too – many of them do not.

As hardships go, ours doesn’t look so hard in retrospect.

At that time, Rick was not on dialysis yet, and I’m sure that people on Vashon/Maury who had that need or other medical needs were in dire straits during that outage. A few years later when the power was out for two or three days before Thanksgiving, Rick did dialysis manually at home, and it was not good. His numbers were all over the place. If that outage had gone on longer, we would have had to evacuate him.

January: there can be more snow, more freezing, and who can forget the Inauguration Day storm that blew in on January 20, 1993? While Bill Clinton was taking his oath, we were getting blown to smithereens. That can happen, but the worst is usually in December.

If you go out in the yard in January, you see the tips of your bulbs coming up. I always tell them, “Go back! It’s too soon!” but they never listen. Crocuses are hardy little pioneers of the garden, and it always gives me a lift to see them breaking through in late January.

In fact, they’ll still be breaking through every January long after I’m gone. That’s life for you. Too committed to quit.
So if you make it through November, December, and January, when February arrives you’re ready for a short month and impatient to get on with spring. February is unpredictable. A little wintery, a little springy.

In the Celtic calendar, spring begins in February, and many of us will have plant starts going inside the house, getting ready for planting when the air and the ground are warm enough. We are ever hopeful, ever looking ahead, ever ready to put our time and effort into the gamble of a garden or a farm.

I have outlined here the weather as I’ve come to know it over decades. I believe that November, December, and January are our winter months. Now that we have climate change, though, it’s probably a good idea to be ready for anything.

I hope we like surprises.