This is my third winter this year.
It has something to do with hemispheres.
My sister, the science nerd, tells me it involves planetary Tilt & Wobble.
And I believe her, because it does feel like a time of great uncertainty and instability.
Sometimes I question the whole setup of this planet. Why can’t we all just get along, and everyone could have winter at the same time?
Basically, most of us trust that the world keeps spinning and orbiting, I guess, but based on impartial scientific observation, days of tedium are too long, other times the good days speed by, leading me to question the constancy of the Earth’s revolution.
Gravity seems pretty predictable, and generally OK, until I slip on the ice and come down hard, landing somewhere south of the equator, and then think — why don’t we set things up like on the moon, with 83.3% less gravity (just looked it up). I mean, just lighten up a bit.
Not really sure tectonic plates make a lot of sense. Back in 1915, with a world war and so many horrible things already underway, a German geologist named Alfred Wegener somehow thought it a good idea to start up “continental drift”.
Not many people feel comfortable having huge land masses skating around. It’s resulted in rifts.
“Continental” has come to connote a certain sophistication, but the sense of uncertainty has lead to earthquakes, very minimal breakfasts in hotels, the instability of the Weimar Republic, etc.
On a positive note, my sister also tells me that every year, I’m an inch closer to Hong Kong and Singapore.
But this is science, and there’s apparently a law about an equal and opposite reaction. We draw closer to Asia, but the moon is moving away from Earth, did you know that??
You’ve probably sensed we’ve grown more distant and chilly — we never visit anymore.
Without that dynamic relationship, that old devil moon circling around us like a dynamo, this planet’s magnetic shields won’t hold forever. We’ll be pelted with radiation, and comets and so on, most of which are, for pete’s sake, big chunks of ice, like we need more ice around here.
We’re also told that there’s this continuing issue with “geomagnetic pole reversal”. Which is bound to upset Vladimir Putin, now that he owns the North Pole, when it suddenly flips to the other end of the planet.
If you call the United Nations’ IT department about these threats to global stability, they just tell you, try rebooting, and put you on hold.
I could go on with scientific stuff like this, but today’s concern: as a minor side effect of traveling between the northern and southern hemispheres – – I’m currently living through my third winter in a row, meaning, almost continual winter for the better part of a year.
First, Milwaukee, a town where winter doesn’t kid around. Wisconsin can be breathtaking. Not in the sense of being beautiful, but literally so cold it’s hard to breathe some days.
Then Chile, in the foothills of the Andes, not snowy in my region, but with countless icy showers (both outside, and at my unheated hostel). More than twice the rainfall of home, and mostly as a long chilly monsoon.
Third, back home in Upstate New York.
Upstate New Yorkers rival the Aleuts in snow and ice expertise.
The Eskimo terminology may be larger and more detailed, but the NY Winter Vocabulary is more colorful and emphatic, and on occasion, has actually been known to melt things. It’s audible from the cars in ditches, pedestrians careening down icy sidewalks in the teeth of the gale, and homeowners shoveling out their driveways for the third time in 24 hours. The weather may be frigid, but we’re a hot-blooded, short-tempered crowd during the ice age.
Actually, although I do not camp in the winter, neither am I discontented.
I enjoy winter, and am more active in the colder temperatures, than when it’s hot.
We’ve been hiking a bit in the Southern Tier (bordering Pennsylvania), which hasn’t had much snowfall yet this year, and some unusual warm spells.
The beautiful fall leaves are now mostly faded to brown, dark russet, and dull yellow, so the winter woods are pretty drab without the snow.
The ravines often have hemlocks, survivors of the forests that were cut up for lumber in the nineteenth century. I love hemlocks, and their subtle fragrance, but on a gray day, with no snow, they can make for a dark and melancholy woods.
And our last two walks went through stretches of tangled second-growth — former farms that went belly-up during the Depression and were replanted with pines by the CCC or the state.
Sometimes, after eighty years, the abandoned pastures and fields have returned to being groves of mature maple, ash, and shagbark hickory, and are pretty nice woodlands.
Other times, former apple orchards are now a nasty tangle of black raspberry brambles, wild grapevines, and spiky hawthorns. The decaying apple trees are decidedly unlovely, and the thorny crap always seems to be trying to choke off the trail, cut up your hands, and stick something sharp through the seat of your pants when you’re not looking.
So, you cannot always be someplace beautiful and picturesque. And it’s all good. I watched my footing, and began admiring the patterns in the ice on the little pools and puddles of the old roads.
The cycle of freezing and thawing has given the ice an opportunity for experimentation with a lot of different shapes and textures. I just had a cellphone with me, but took some pictures to give an idea of what I’m talking about.
Usually the ice crystals around here are pretty, well, crystalline – – sharp-edged Art Deco/Jazz Age.
But this week, maybe because I’ve been looking at architecture from the turn of the last century, the streams and puddles around here seem to have a definite Art Nouveau look to them.