Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:



When the seasons change hands, we always expect a few weeks of give and take before the new management gets things under control.

I think we can say that management now has a firm grip. The new atmospheric format is in place: cold air. Last week, winter kicked down the door, unrolled its sleeping bag, and made itself at home in Kansas.

Over the past month, winter has teased us a bit with cold winds and declining temperatures. Winter is an alpha season and shows no respect for the boundaries of fall.

December 21 is meaningless as a start date for winter. In Kansas, once October hits, icy precipitation is a possibility. And winter has some scary little friends. A few years ago, in early October, I drove through freezing mist in Barton County. Ice storms are often part of winter’s early game.

Winter likes to bully autumn; it kicks snow into November’s face. And we did have a fleeting but fluffy snow on November 16th. Tiny pellets morphed into cotton ball flakes and they covered the lawns, but melted before the afternoon was over.

Although there’s an annual tug of war between fall and winter, there’s always a point at which you know: winter is here.

Once the thermometer plunges into the teens, you can say with confidence that we’re not going to pull out of this temperature dive. Sure, we’ll have some warm spells, an occasional day in the 50s, and maybe a January thaw in the 60s or even 70s, but for now, it’s time to settle in and get used to the pervasive cold.

What defines winter for you? At what point do you say winter is here? Is it the cold temperatures, the icy precipitation, or the spirit of Christmas?

During November, winter blew its cold breath down my neck a few times, and even though we had snow last month, it didn’t seem like winter yet. We were still having that transitory, wavering, it-might-get-warmer-this-afternoon cold.

Then last week, the air felt different. It was for-real cold. Maybe not outer space cold, but cold enough. So, for me, winter began on December 5.

Now that frigid air has arrived, we see clearly the signs of winter:

Static electricity. My hair defies gravity, and the cats are offended when we inadvertently shock them.

A higher gas bill. And a higher electric bill from running the space heaters in order to keep the gas bill down. If I’m sitting at my desk, whichever side of my body isn’t facing the space heater gets cold.

And I know it is winter when the hot shower is the only time during the day when I feel truly warm. Ah, the perils of living in a drafty old house.

Being inside more, the cats are antsy, restless. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They have ca(t)bin fever. When I suggest a jigsaw puzzle or curling up with a good book, they just glare at me and demand treats.

We know it is winter when we have to warm up the car, partly for the engine and partly so we won’t be sitting on a frozen barge.

Throughout November, I wore light jackets. In December, coats become the outer garment of choice. We need armor against the cold, so now going outside means wearing everything on the coat rack. Winter has so much paraphernalia.

I’m a good Girl Scout; I like to be prepared, but I’d prefer to travel lightly. For me, all of that suiting up to go outside is burdensome. I don’t want to have to keep track of belongings; most of the time I don’t even carry a purse. If something doesn’t fit into my jeans pockets, I don’t need it.

But in winter, I have to manage all of these other loose parts – gloves and stocking caps and scarves and coats. Lost-and-found boxes are proof that many people leave their house with their armor, but that it doesn’t go home with them.

So now here we all are, settling into winter, or perhaps, letting it settle into us. For the next three months, this is where we’ll be, trying to keep the cats entertained with toys and treats as we huddle around our space heaters or, for you lucky people, crackling fireplaces.

Copyright 2011 ~ Cheryl Unruh


  1. Yes! Mature! 🙂 As a matter of fact, I am trying to be accepting of winter. I wanted to state things as facts rather than opinions. But I am trying to mellow my opinions as well.

  2. Nicely done. Of course the forecast is for the temperature to reach 60 tomorrow, and for the 80% chance of precipitation to be rain, not ice or snow, but after all, this is Kansas.

    I’ll take it. Put your coat on the rack until after tomorrow and enjoy. 🙂

  3. I find it difficult to be mature about winter. I want to lay down on the floor (carpeted please so it is warmer) and throw a big fit.

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