December 3, 2002
We got our first serious snow of the season yesterday, which means it’s now officially winter according to the rules in my big book o’ seasons. If the ice scraper has to come out, it’s winter. The calendar in my DayRunner insists that the season won’t change until December 21, which is clearly wrong. Probably they just had to put “First Day of Winter” on there because too few people would understand what “Winter Solstice” meant and would besiege their offices with petitions about their support for the pagan devil worshipping holiday.
I have an ambivalent relationship with winter. It’s never been in the running with spring and fall for my favorite season, but it’s not battling it out with summer for my least favorite, either. Summer is the big loser in the war of the seasons, because of the heat. In winter, I can always adjust how many layers of clothing I’m wearing to achieve a comfortable temperature, but in summer, there are days when even going naked wouldn’t help.
Winter has several key points to recommend it. There’s much less yard work to do, for one. Shoveling pretty much covers it, unless an ice dam forms on the roof, and the clean white snow covers most of the signs of chores neglected in summer and fall. Since I’m a big slacker when it comes to yard work in any season, winter means less guilt because there’s less for me to shirk. Though Mr. Karen might disagree, I think I do closer to my share of the outside work in the winter, because I get a feeling of moral superiority from shoveling that I don’t get from weeding. Weeding is killing, while shoveling is good for the environment and good for me. For some reason, I don’t get the same high from raking, I think because raking requires more work—all those piles of leaves have to go somewhere, whereas it’s perfectly acceptable to leave the piles of snow right there in the yard for weeks at a time.
In winter, I get to use the electric blanket. Yes, I know I’m probably shortening my life or at the very least disrupting my chi by nestling under the electromagnetic field generated by this bastard bedcover, even though I turn it off before I fall asleep, but it feels so good to snuggle into an already warm bed at night. My joy is such that it requires I do a special horizontal happy dance to celebrate. (There is also the vertical shuffle of sadness on the nights I forget to turn the blanket on while I’m getting ready for bed and am forced to either wait around until it gets warm or grit my teeth and slide onto the cold, hard slab of mattress.)
In winter, I get to go skiing. Granted, not around here; going to Colorado and Utah and other points west has ruined me for our Midwestern “mountains”, but just thinking about skiing cheers me up. I never guessed I’d like it as much as I do. I’m especially looking forward to this season because, for the first time in more years than I care to admit, I won’t be stuffed into my ski bibs like a sausage. I expect I’ll ski better now that I won’t have to worry about splitting a seam every time I get into a tuck position.
In the winter, people put up festive displays, which I get to enjoy looking at or, at the very least, enjoy critiquing. True, that’s not confined to winter anymore, with more and more people going all out for Halloween, too, but Christmas still rules the holiday decorating roost. It used to bother me how early Christmas decorations went up; I was one of the “no earlier than the day after Thanksgiving” crowd. But then it dawned on me that if everyone stuck to that rule, I would only have a few weeks to see the pretty lights and colorful banners and sparkly displays, and that would be sad because I like decorations. I like them best when other people put them up and take them down.
Winter also has some definite drawbacks. When the holiday decorations come down, the color palette that’s left is so restrained as to be depressing. It’s all neutrals: whites and grays and browns. Boring. The evergreen accent color just doesn’t do enough to punch it up. I want oranges and reds and purples and pinks. It’s these same desires that cause me to make baby quilts that are so bright Mr. Karen once speculated that they might give children seizures.
In winter, my neighbors bring out their snowblowers and use them. Vrrrrrrrun, vrrrrun, vrrrrun, they go at all hours of morning and night. I felt like the Grinch last night hearing them—the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! It’s an inhuman racket. The only saving grace is that, because the lots aren’t very wide in our neighborhood, there’s only so long they can run their infernal machines before they run out of concrete to clear.
In winter, I often have to scrap ice off my car windows before I can go home at the end of the day. That wouldn’t be so bad, except once I’m done scraping I have to then drive home alongside all the people who can’t seem to figure out the white stuff on the roads. As the MDOT Masters of the Obvious sign on the freeway said yesterday “Expect increased travel times in inclement weather.” They left off the “because snow increases the stupidity level of your fellow drivers”.
On any given winter day, the relative weight of these factors can put me in the “I love winter” camp or the “Winter sucks” one. At 9:30 yesterday morning, when I was straggling into the office as the rest of my team was coming out of a meeting I missed because traffic moved so slowly thanks to the wonder of the frozen precipitation, I was down on winter. At 4 o’clock some day later this month, when I’m making smooth linked turns in champagne powder on my last run of the day, I’ll be praising all that is white and snowy.