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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Old Man Winter

I woke up this morning to find maybe an inch of snow on the ground and nothing else arriving. Here we go again, I thought, just the prediction of a big storm is enough to shoo it away. But not true today. By 8:00 the east wind intensified and starting carrying snow. Gradually, the wind shifted to the north, and the surf, which had been coming in so strongly from the southeast, got somewhat confused and broken but still thunderous, and the snow kept on falling, now horizontally. So far, at 3:00, it's been light stuff and not really accumulating, but I imagine away from the water, snow is piling in respectable amounts not seen for months. What a weird winter, in which the most snow falls on the last weekend of October and the first day of March, and almost nothing in between.

I used to maintain that winter was fine, a beautiful quiet time here in Maine. That was before snow stopped coming and cross-country skiing stopped happening and backs were stronger and patience was longer. Now, I have to admit that walking is not quite so pleasurable when brown is one's major color group. More and more I resent burning fossil fuels to stay warm, especially when ruing OPEC now is joined by ruing our own fracking and off-shore drilling and tar sands exploitation. Lack of snow provides no shining white expanses, no exhilarating down-hill runs, no angel robes on the branches of the pointed firs. Winter has become rather blah, punctuated by storm alarms, mostly false, from the media. Sitting snug by the fire loses some of its charm when you do it every day.

My father towards the end of his life started to find winter very unnerving. He was especially anxious about snow and the thought of being snowed in. Possibly he was frustrated that he couldn't shovel his way out of trouble any more, possibly he thought he was losing the capacity to provide for self and wife against a cruel world, possibly it was a metaphor for death. I thought his fears a little overblown, but now I wonder. Will this boredom with winter turn into something else? I'm already wearing an extra pair of socks these days...

Old Man Winter won't be denied. (And I won't deny the denial by moving to Florida.) That still doesn't prevent me from longing for spring. Maybe that's the simple problem. On the first of March we shouldn't have to be trapped by wind and cold, shouldn't have to look back over our shoulders to see fateful winter taking what it didn't give us in November, December, January, and February. March should be a hopeful month, not a cruel one that reminds us of time and age and sore backs. Leave that for April when we can better cope.

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