Friday, December 19, 2008

Is It Winter Yet?

The girls are on their second snow day home from school this month, and it's not even officially winter yet.

There is about a foot of snow that is no longer in my driveway, thanks to the trusty snowblower and a tank and a half of gas (usually I can get three storms out of a tank), and the girls are out in the back making a snow fort with one of the neighbors. Me, I'm inhaling tea and attempting to thaw out the bits that stick out. No, no, mostly just my nose and fingers. Thanks for worrying, though.

We need a new definition of "official" for winter. I know the solstice is a couple of days away - that we still have two days of dwindling daylight before the night hits its longest point and then the whole thing slips into reverse. But daylight alone does not a season make.

Summer really begins on Memorial Day, and lasts until Labor Day, solstice notwithstanding. Autumn runs from the first day of school to Thanksgiving. Spring goes from Easter to Memorial Day, unless you are in Wisconsin, in which case it is often a Tuesday in late May. Winter runs from Christmas or the first shovelable snow (whichever comes first) through Spring Break, which may or may not coincide with Easter.

There are gaps there - days and weeks that really don't belong to any season and can be shifted back and forth at need. Early December, for example, can be either autumn or winter. Late March sometimes feels like spring, though not often. Summer can run well into October.

And let us not forget Construction, a general-purpose season in Wisconsin that functions something like an overlay area code and can happen instead of, in addition to, or parallel with any other season. We have ten-digit weather here.

On the other hand, some parts of the year belong to specific seasons no matter what. Even if it snows on Memorial Day, for example, it is still summer. It's just a weird summer, one that old men will remember when they try to out-hardship each other on the front porch someday. "Remember that summer?" they will say, and the whiskey will flow like water as their eyes mist over with memories of hardship survived, for that is what whiskey is for, is what.

But it is definitely winter now.

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