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Winter, Maybe

February 14th, 2012 at 10:26 am

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



We had been slipping through winter with the greatest of ease.

This has not been a snow angel kind-of-a-year here in east-central Kansas. To get angel wings fluttering on the ground you need measurable snow, and in December and January that just didn’t happen. We began to think that the sky had lost its flake-making ability.

It seemed as if winter simply missed a turn on its GPS, but it was actually La Nina that took the jet stream for a ride. At any rate, we’ve lived most of the season in a warm lull, a quiet spring-like winter.

Colder air wandered in this past week, but for the most part, winter wintered elsewhere. Our temperatures have been freakishly mild and up until now the sky had given us only a few measly attempts at snow, light dustings of white that didn’t last. That’s it.

During the first half of winter, we managed to escape the white abyss, the rolling whiteouts, snow bullets that shatter when they hit car windshields.

We’ve had blue skies for a majority of our winter days, which is different from the gray ceiling that is usually overhead this time of year. Winter skies are often the color of old nickels with clouds huddled together, so deep in conversation they’re inseparable – and even the sun can’t get a ray in edgewise.

There have been only a few days when our exhalations have been outlined in the air, only a few mornings when the car needed to be warmed up before driving. We’ve missed the wooliness of winter; I bought a new stocking cap in November and have worn it twice.

Most days this winter, I’ve walked out the door saying, “Look Ma, no coat.” I think I’ve put on that coat only about 12 days since Halloween. The past few months it’s been common to see people wearing T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops around town.

In mid-December, we did have a blast of freezing temperatures and I thought that cold air would stick around, so I wrote a column called “Winter is Here.” Then as soon as the column ran in the paper, the thermometer bounced back up to 60 degrees, making me look like a fool. You can’t trust the weather in Kansas.

Or maybe I jinxed winter by writing that column.

Since then, we’ve had fabulous weather through December, January and into early February. So for this week, I decided I would write a winter-skipped-us column, and look what has happened – we fell into a cold spell. I write about the cold, it warms up. I write about the warmth, it gets cold. I can’t win.

When seasons are out of whack like this, our whole ecosystem can get crazy. Snow is good for wheat and it’s helpful in alleviating the drought. Below-freezing temperatures aid in mosquito control. With winter warmth, fruit trees and bushes start blooming early and if we get a deep frost in April, we can lose an entire crop of local apples, sand hill plums and other fruits.

Now I don’t like it that the seasons get out of balance, but if there are 60-degree days in December, January and February, I’m going to enjoy them.

We’ve had a long stretch of good weather, but I’ve been thinking about my poor brother in Alaska. He’s surely ready for spring. Alaska has kept the cold air and the snow up there this year. In January, Leon sent an email with the subject line: “No gardening today” and he included a photo of the temperature reading at Fairbanks, -45, with a caption, “My coldest day ever.”

OK, that kind of cold is just nuts. But there is something honest about a freezing cold day. When we’re out in sub-zero air, we can experience some truths about who we are as individuals and as human beings. Bitter temperatures give us that man vs. nature experience, provide that feeling of being in the wilderness without us even having to leave town.

Where the seasons go from here, it’s hard to guess. Winter has already been hit-and-miss with an emphasis on the miss.

February is half over, winter has arrived, but yet we are closing in on spring. Now we are just waiting for the dandelions.

Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh


columns, Flyover Weather, seasons

  1. Ralph
    February 15th, 2012 at 20:12 | #1

    Winter skies are often the color of old nickels with clouds huddled together, so deep in conversation they’re inseparable – and even the sun can’t get a ray in edgewise. – Wow! That’s great.