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Baby it’s Cold Outside

January morning out the back door

January morning out the back door

It’s finally starting to feel like winter.  We’ve had enough snow to cover the ground and temperatures are falling.  In Minnesota we are known for being the “frozen North”  but most of December our temperatures remained above freezing.   This is nice in theory.

The warmer temperatures did make getting out and about a little easier.  Navigating sidewalks wasn’t a problem as there was no build up of snow.  On street parking was available and none of the commercial spaces need to use their handicapped parking spots as the “logical” place to pile the snow shoveled off the lot.

On the other hand, there was no White Christmas.  The magic of the season, the lights the sounds, are all shifted when there is a crispness in the air and snow on the ground.  Instead of clear starry nights we had clouds and sleet.  Many people I spoke with were having a hard time finding the spirit of the season, and I blame that on the weather.

The snow cover protects our plants in the frigid cold that January often brings.  Because most of our precipitation has been rain, that snowy blanket isn’t as effective.  We can hope that we will continue to remain warmer this season, but there is a difference between climate and weather.

The climate is shifting.  The lines for gardening zones have moved quite notably in my lifetime.  But in any given year we can see any kind of weather.  I complain that the forecasts often compare our temperatures to the “average”.  Here that is meaningless.

When temperatures on any given day from the highest high to the lowest low range anywhere from 40-80 degrees what’s 5 or 10 degrees above or below “average”?   I suspect there are days when the “average” high or low is a temperature than doesn’t exist in the historical listing for highs and lows on those days.

This chart from KORD shows how broad our extremes can be and how "normal" doesn't look much like what actually happens.

This chart from KORD shows how broad our extremes can be and how “normal” doesn’t look much like what actually happens.

January often sees days below zero.  It is not uncommon to see weeks where temperatures never rise above zero.  We’ve had three-week stretches of unrelenting, bone chilling weather.  Finally we’ve dropped the temperature to a point where maybe we can remember what winter is really like.

I’m not the only one blogging about the weather this week.  If you want a warmer POV check out Monica’s Tangled Web.

Hibernating

PART_1416239762512_20141110_082650This time between Halloween and Thanksgiving is often a breathing space for me.  I’m lucky enough not to have to host the Thanksgiving event.  Even my expected contributions towards the food are pretty simple.

This year, with a blanket of snow on the ground that appears to be here to stay, I’m even more inclined to take some “time off”.  All I want to do is curl up and hibernate.

Maybe it’s the longer, darker days.  Even night owls are “brighter” during the full moon.  Last weekend the moon was new, which means those nights are darker and seem longer.   Maybe it’s the cold.  Even with the furnace on, crawling out of a warm cozy bed in the morning isn’t appealing.

There is a food piece attached to this as well, although I’ve not quite figured out what it is.  I know it is typical to eat a little more as the days get colder.  I know it is typical to eat to stay awake, rather than wandering off to bed as soon as it gets dark.  I know that I think I want “heavier” foods these days.

I’m just 4 months post bariatric surgery.  Heavy foods don’t really sit well and even if they do we’re talking one bite.   I really wanted a hamburger the other day.  I ran out the door so breakfast was haphazard and lunch was late.  My mind had me stopping at a restaurant (like Fuddruckers) and getting a 1/3lb burger with cheese and bacon on an artisan bun with a side of fries and a salad.

I did stop at the store on the way home to get some hamburger I didn’t have to thaw.  Picked up some cheese as well.  I made a 2oz burger with cheese and ½ a piece of bacon and some barbecue sauce rather than ketchup.  I made a little (¼ cup) salad with lettuce and tomato (one small slice diced) and some balsamic dressing.    It was really too much.  And it was also really plenty to satisfy that craving.

Orion got a serious burger and fries for dinner.  I still wasn’t hungry.  In fact he got dinners from that pound of hamburger for several days.  My second 2oz burger is still in the refrigerator.

Thanksgiving marks the end of autumn for me and the beginning of the winter holiday season.   I’ll let Orion listen to Christmas carols in the car.  (He’d be happy having them playing year round.)  I’ll come out of hibernation and start baking and planning for the holidays.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just relax and enjoy a little bit of quiet time.

Stir Crazy

blowing snow can make driving difficult

blowing snow can make driving difficult

This is the time of year when cabin fever really starts to set in. Imbolc, Groundhogs day, Candlemas the mid-marker  festivals of the season.  For much of the country 6 more weeks of winter sounds like a lot, but it’s countable.  For us it’s 6 more weeks before we can even start counting! Mid-March is a great time to start seedlings indoors where I live.  There is no hope of planting even peas and kale until May. (Well, sometimes we get lucky and risk takers will put a little something in at the end of April, but it’s rare.)

These winter holidays are very important for us.  They provide a break in the routine, a chance to get out of the house and socialize.  Another Monday when schools and roads are closed because it’s too cold and too windy.  Blizzard conditions make getting out of the house seem a little like a pipe-dream.  But we do it.  It is -20F this morning (with a windchill below -40.  Do you know that -40 is the temperature when Celsius and Fahrenheit meet?  When you live someplace where that temperature is a reality you learn that kind of trivia.)

They’re talking highs at 20F on Wednesday.  We’ve been up and down that 40-50 degrees a lot this year.  It’s hard on a body.  To us that 20F will feel like a heat wave.  Minnesotans will go out to the mailbox without their coats.  They’ll leave hats and gloves in the car.  A friend on Facebook said “you know it’s been cold when you’re out shoveling at 15F and need to take your coat off because it’s too warm!” We’re a little crazy that way – stir crazy.

I didn't put on a coat when I snuck out to snap this photo.

I didn’t put on a coat when I snuck out to snap this photo.

Another really perverse factoid about the winter weather here is that when it’s cold it’s usually really sunny.  The snow reflects that sunlight and so it’s bright enough to need sunglasses.  Those festivals all celebrate  the return of longer days, the return of the light.  The sun rises noticeably earlier and sets noticeably later.  The further north you go the more dramatic those differences are.   Minneapolis is on the 45th parallel.  That’s half way between the equator and the top of the world (or the bottom if you’re not Northern Hemisphere biased).  About this time of year a typical office worker begins to notice that they are driving to and from work in daylight rather than darkness.   A nice change of pace.  But being able to see the light sometimes makes you want it even more.

Wikapedia says:  When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail.  Maybe that’s why we have a winter carnival with ice castles,  kite flying on frozen lakes, winter witch camp (which is actually in Wisconsin, but if you fly in Minneapolis is the closer airport), and parks that rent cross-country skis and snowshoes.

Today the University is closed because the weather is so bad, but the Metro Mobility buses are running.  Orion got bundled up and sent of to his day program and we’ll make it to adaptive Yoga tonight.  We’re getting ready to celebrate Imbolc this coming weekend and in the meantime working on staying warm and not getting too stir crazy.

Solstice Fever

The winter crud is going around.  Orion and I got hit late last week and we’re still dragging a little.  This time of year, when there is so much to do, so much pressure to get it done, it’s hard to take time out.  I don’t get fevers.  When I do they totally wipe me out.  I can’t argue, don’t care if I eat and spend my day moving from one “nest” to another.  I managed to get Orion fed thanks to leftovers and toaster waffles.

There’s another fever going around this year.  The world is supposed to end, or at least the Mayan calendar ends, on 12/21/12.  In case you didn’t notice, that’s the winter solstice.

Have you perhaps been looking at the Aztec calendar?  Or the Oreo Cookie?

Have you perhaps been looking at the Aztec calendar? Or the Oreo Cookie?

In fact that’s kind of the point.  The Mayan’s had a phenomenal grasp of astronomical principles.  They understood, better than many American’s do, that the earth’s trip around the sun gives us our longer nights and shorter days (visa versa towards the summer solstice.)  They also understood the progression of the equinox, the way the whole galaxy turns upon itself.

This year everything lines up.  The winter solstice, the sun in relationship with the galactic core, all of it.  It seems a more reasonable place to “end” the calendar than December 31, or September 18th if you’re Jewish, or  January 23, 2012 or February 10 2013 on the Chinese calendar or November 15th in the Islamic calendar system.  Our dates are pretty arbitrary, the Mayans at least picked an event that can be calculated consistently and that only happens once every 26,000 years or so.

Humans mark the “end times” with fear, and always have.  That in part is the reason for the solstice celebrations.  This is the longest night of the year, it marks the beginning of the coldest season.  It’s a scary time.  Modern sensibilities speculate that the general population didn’t believe the sun would come back unless they celebrated the rites of solstice lead by the priestly class.  How much different is that than stocking up on water and supplies as we approached December 31, 1999?  How familiar is this year’s “solstice fever”?

For a really good article explaining the astronomical connections between the winter solstice and the Mayan calendar  look here:   http://http://www.december212012.com/articles/solar/2012_The_Astronomy_Connection.htm

In the meantime, stay well and Happy Solstice!

Snow

White car in the storm

White car in the storm

Sparkles tinkling in the headlight beams

Falling in clumps from overburdened branches

100_4102

Drifting in biting breezes

not too high yet

not too high yet

Plowed with dirt and grass ready to trap the unsuspecting traveler

Blown in furrows an orchestra of engines up and down the driveways

Toddlers in a circle tossing handfuls up to fall again100_4095

Packed as gentle weapons in a war of laughter

Snowman Karina Dylan and DavisSculpted into fat round men glistening in the sunlight

Cold damp kisses on eyelashes and tongues

Winter’s cloak of glory

icicles under the rain barrel

icicles under the rain barrel

The season’s first snow100_4103

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