Can you weather the wintry weather?

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Column: Tales From Exit 22


I can’t tell where my nose ends and the handkerchief begins.

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That means it’s winter. I like winter, but I wouldn’t want to own it.

I pay the price of winter to live where I do. The bomb was the most feared weapon I could imagine when I was a boy. The snowball was the most evident weapon. Winter can be a hard season to love. Ecclesiastes tells us that to everything there is a season. I remember one winter that lasted 14 months. I would describe winter as indescribable, but if I say something is indescribable, I just described it. Winter weather dominates everything, but each winter has its own personality and each gives us more weather than we can use.

When we have goosebumps where geese don’t have them, someone will ask, “Cold enough for you?” A good response is, “No, I’m not comfortable in anything warmer than 20 degrees below zero.”

The Weather Channel ignores us until the winter hits with apocalyptic proportions and we are forced to burn furniture for heat.

Bettors tend to go with the under when wagering on temperatures. Like revenge, winter is best served cold. As cold as a walrus’s knee. Colder than the nose of a snowplow. Colder than a cast iron seat in a tin privy on the shady side of an iceberg. Colder than a snowman’s lunch. So cold that the electrons stop moving and we have to throw another blanket on the fire. So cold, people have to jump-start their cell phones and scrape the frost from the window of the microwave. So cold, it hurts my feelings. I set a kettle of boiling water outside. When I checked on it, the water had frozen solid but the ice was still warm.

Facial hair freezes in the great outdoors. You could slap a moustache off a man’s face. I take photographs of winter and Photoshop the cold out.

A perfect storm is the blizzard that doesn’t happen. When Armageddon threatens, people make frantic forays to the grocery store in fear of being snowbound for weeks. They buy out the supermarkets of essentials like bread, milk, toilet paper, and beef jerky. A crammed parking lot forces cars to park so far from the food stores that they are no longer in the area expecting snow.

Snow falls — floating, whirling, tumbling, and dancing to the ground. Snow is a solid expression of winter. Snow can turn from being a pleasant adventure to being menacing. It demonstrates anti-snowtial behavior that transforms the landscape into a giant marshmallow. Folklore says that if I wash my hands in the first snowfall, I won’t be bothered by chapped hands.

A snow removal plan called “June” can leave a car helpless, high-centered on a pedestal of hardened snow, with four tires untouched by road. Suspected DWI drivers not only have to walk a straight line through ice and snow, they have to do it while wearing snowshoes.

It gets so icy that the café puts nearly as much salt on the sidewalk as on the french fries. We become ice road truckers, struggling to keep tires in the two ruts in the snow like a luge staying in its track. We see cars in the ditch, but we continue down the road. Moses the snowplow driver parts the white sea ahead of us. As a teen, I went to snow shoveling camp. My driveway is never done, but I do shovel off the welcome mat. If it makes someone feel welcome, he or she can shovel the rest.

One night, years ago, a flock of geese landed on our pond. Spring weather always arrives a little later than hoped and summer’s heat always begins a little earlier than desired, but winter starts whenever it feels like it. The weather turned cold, the pond froze solid, and the geese woke to find their feet frozen in the ice. They all flapped their wings at once and flew off, heading south with the frozen pond still attached to their feet. That pond remained dry for two years.

In winter, we hope for the best but expect the worst. Life quiets. The weather provides all the action most people can handle. Being miserable is half the fun of winter. I maintain optimism by wearing warm socks.

By the time we begin to think that mosquitoes aren’t bad things, winter is nearly over. Winter is officially over when my neighbor returns my snowblower.

Winter is what carries us to spring.

I hope you winter well.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.