Archive for Thursday, February 2, 2006

Gift of mild weather brings unease

February 2, 2006

Weather, always an easy conversation starter, has shoved its way into nearly every casual conversation. The last week seems to have been the tipping point when the run of mild weather grew from a curiosity to a phenomena, as outside our experience and expectations in its way as the drought of 1936 or the flooding rains of 1951. Something is up when nighttime lows exceed historical daytime highs. That makes it somewhat unsettling, despite the joy provided by stepping out coatless into a January afternoon to be greeted with warming sunshine.

I felt something akin to my grade school days when the teacher would have to leave the room for extended periods with the imprecation to "stay busy." Left unsupervised, I was free to do as I would, but felt guilty for not staying on task.

This is undeserved. Everyone knows it's not supposed to be this way. Winter is more than a few frigid weeks around the December equinox. We're not given a gift like this without payment, is the consensus. In this case, the fear is that equilibrium will demand a series of those knockout Plains' blizzards that leaves us in as much awe of nature's disruptive power as tornadoes.

And there in our consciousness feeding our guilt is our possible active role through that battered political phrase "global warming." Greenhouse gases or cyclical weather patterns, it's harder and harder to ignore the rarity of harsh winters in the past 20 years.

Marilyn Laws Porter, one of our columnists for The Eudora News, recently identified her reason for unease. Winter is supposed to be cocoon time, when chores can be put off guilt-free for a good book enjoyed with a hot mug of chocolate (or a televised basketball game). The persistent warm weather keeps us active, she said, depriving use of seasonal regenerative time, especially needed for recovery from holiday hyperactivity.

There are probably those sad over the outright deprivation of the joys of winter. I feel for them, but I don't share their loss. Yes, a walk in fresh snow can be exhilarating, but I mostly find the cold uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I don't miss chiseling ice from my windshield, shoveling snow from the sidewalk, dodging potholes with thaws or turning up the thermostat.

And notwithstanding Midwestern protestations to the contrary, I'm confident the majority feel the same way. The Sun Belt isn't booming because of the opportunity to be ravaged by fire ants or wiped out by a hurricane.

As much as I would like to think otherwise, I'm sure we will still see enough winter to make us celebrate spring. So as I, too, marvel at the successive days of extraordinary mild temperatures, I try to greet them as individual gifts. We have, after all, marked off January and each passing day is one closer to spring.

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