Childhood memories get sharper after middle age, seeming to reference ancient times that were more extreme and sharply defined. “You don’t get winters like we used to …” Deep freeze, however, is often ameliorated by compensating images (in my case) of roaring wood fires in oil drums beside a skating creek. A child is small, so snow seems deep. Nevertheless, I do not recall high winds as much of a concern, perhaps because we were kept inside when they blew.
Local weather is only on average affected by climate change. This winter here has been relatively mild, but contains occasional sharp dips. Storms are intense, even if mostly rain. And strong wind, even very strong wind, has been almost constant. Since the advertisement of wind chill by media, numbers are all about how cold it would feel if you didn’t have any clothes on, which is kind of silly. But such measurement is as pervasive and ubiquitous as TV meteorologists themselves. Wind chill has become more accepted than mercury readings. Yet, even now, allowance is hardly made for how greatly humidity affects how we experience temperature.
Modern civilized folks take food, electricity, water, and warmth for granted. Nobody is so poor they cannot find a coat, or a public space to hang out in. The days of folks shivering in threadbare cloth on icy street corners _ except by choice _ seems long past. But how cold is it, wind chill or not? Some of us need layer after layer plus hats scarves and mittens. On the other hand _ a few years ago I saw a guy running after dark in sandals, shorts, and T-shirt when the temperature was near twenty. It is well known that some physiques love cold, and fat is a good insulator. So even if we could agree on the “objective” temperature, what each of us may feel varies considerably from one to another.
Logically, it seems easier to add warm clothing when necessary in a cold climate than to try to remain cool in a hot one. Winter hardly seems much of a warmth issue, even outdoors, in a time when technology has given such wonderful new fabrics. Ski resorts and skimobile sales attest to this, of course. But along with easy comfort has come great laziness, and some folks hate being anywhere that is not a constant range of, say, 72 to 75 degrees.
Seasons can be magical but also depressing. Cycles proving that time is passing faster than we wish. Reminders of mortality as blossoms die and branches become naked. This is offset by the rush of hope as spring surges and promise of summer glows in the near future. Not to mention that many bugs and weedy nuisances are kept in check. But mostly, I just enjoy the temperate natural play of time and temperature, like a great spectacle with constantly changing opening performances and replacement by totally new productions every three months or so. That most certainly includes winter, a time to meditate and reflect.
Those of us who remain in Northern climates like to think of ourselves as busier and more industrious than the indolent folk of lazy warm lands. They lie around under palm trees all year, sipping drinks from dawn to dusk, occasionally selling a t-shirt to get by. We, on the other hand, must do something or become bored with cabin fever. We consider ourselves forced by the cycle of nature to plan ahead like proverbial ants for tough times certain to come.
That is all mythology now, if ever true. Everyone works just as hard or as little everywhere as anyone else anywhere. And in the depth of frozen howling winter, dealing with slippery streets and drafty houses or frozen pipes, having to wear layer after layer to get from door to door _ well, being in sunny warm greenery all the time looks pretty good. After all, it’s where we all began to evolve, we should enjoy it more. But usually mythology of one type or another is what gets us through the day, and most of us easily adapt our personal myths to circumstance.