Posts Tagged ‘winter’


Today is December 21st, and here in the northern hemisphere it’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In Minnesota, as we creep toward the end of the year, the shortening days grow more pronounced. The sun sets just after 4, or so it seems, and the sky is so gray that many days it feels like it never really came up to begin with. I know we’re not Norway or Alaska or someplace where the sun actually doesn’t come up, but for those of us with finely tuned SAD spectra, it’s bad enough. I’ve spent most of the last week feeling more than a little overwhelmed, and like maybe I could just stay in bed until the new year. We have people coming over on Monday (and I invited them, so it’s my own fault) – and the house is a mess, none of the presents are wrapped, there are still hand-made gifts to finish that have no hope of being done in time. I have no idea what we’re eating, and I’m pretty sure there’s something developing sentience in the crisper drawer. R is suffering from a mystery skin ailment that periodically just shoots pain through his body, and a trip to urgent care today turned up a “Hmmm. That’s weird. Want some codeine?”

The cares and problems of my friends feel even more overwhelming – a child with cancer, losses of loved ones, a messy separation involving baseless criminal charges, and a couple of scary car accidents. Compared to what they are coping with, my craziness is small – which makes me feel more like a failure when I can’t seem to get my act together. The dark, ooky cold of December doesn’t help.

Today, the Yarn Harlot put it well: this is the darkest night. When the sun rises tomorrow, we will be back on the upswing. It may happen slowly (and in MN, it always does), but tomorrow the day will be one minute longer than it was today, and that makes me happy. Unlike the YH, I don’t have little thoughtful gifts or beautiful food smells to give to those I love today, but when I get home tonight I will light candles in the windows and wash some dishes and fold the laundry. I’ll be one step closer to welcoming our friends on Monday. And you know what? They’re our friends. If they come over and all the snacks are from Costco instead of homemade, they’re not going to mind. And you know what? I’ll be so glad to see them that neither will I.

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It’s just before 7 am here, and as I type this a gentle snow is falling. It’s that light, fluffy stuff that leaves the world looking like one of those miniature Dickensian dioramas, all Victorian cottages and white sparkle batting. We’ve seen the first proper snow all winter this week, although the temperature has been hovering around the freezing mark, making it hard to believe that winter is really happening.

In Minnesota, we’re known for our winters. When I tell people from back home where I live now, they give me that look usually reserved for people who frequently bathe with toasters. “Isn’t it cold there?” they ask me. Most of the time, I can say yes. I have seen air temps in the -30s (F), and wind chills down to -45 or so. I have walked out on a frozen lake on a day so cold that it hurt to breathe. I nearly caught hypothermia waiting for the bus once, and sometimes the weather reports say to stay inside if you don’t absolutely have to go anywhere, because it’s so cold that you can get frostbite with only five minutes of exposure. And that’s just here in the Twin Cities – it gets worse the further north you travel. I pity the people who live in Saskatchewan; that’s a cold so mighty that I think it would drive me south. R and I are beginning to understand about Snowbirds the older we get. The thought of going somewhere warm and skipping all this winter is really tempting.

THIS winter, though, has been more Virginia than Minnesota. We’ve barely had any night temps below 0, and no daily highs below. During the coldest months of December and January, we hovered around the mid- to upper-twenties, and flirted with 40 many days. The most snow we’ve gotten has been about two inches – compare that with last December, when we were digging out from snowfalls of two feet. Although it’s snowing today, we feel like we’re heading into spring having dodged a bullet. I’m starting to prepare seed containers and think about the garden. Nothing’s poked its head up yet, but I don’t doubt that in a couple of weeks we’ll have the first green things shooting their way up from the dirt. I may be able to put in parts of the garden in April this year – usually I wait until the end of May, so the frost doesn’t kill the young plants. The days are getting longer and the world around here knows that while winter may bluster a little more, it’s on its way for the year.

We Minnesotans have a keen sense of Spring. It’s coming – I can taste it.

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