Weekend essay: Winter’s interlude
The sunlight fades quickly as midafternoon turns late, just as it is loath to arrive in the morning.
Yet despite the growing number of Christmas lights, turn away from them and the darkness that overtakes the retreating day suddenly is blackness at its deepest.
The dark void that is the fading fall is previewing the waxing winter set to formally begin its windy, chilly ways in a few short days.
This coming winter already has a different feel to it. The cold teases to date have had an especially damp feel. Perhaps they were fueled by misplaced warm interludes that delivered a late rainy season. Perhaps the wet snows of the last few days indeed are a harbinger.
Animal noses – deer, dog, coyote, fox and squirrel — have risen sharply as the origins of the prevailing winds switch, now from the Northwest. Noses human can sense it, too. For there’s a persistent and telltale sweetness in the air that foretells the kind of winter that might precipitate tall tales generations from now.
But any sense of foreboding is tempered. Despite already having gone through nearly a quarter cord of firewood, the woodpile remains robust, the pantry is well-appointed, as is the freezer; it’s packed with stock for soups and stews – chicken, beef and fish.
Just in case, oil lanterns are filled. The emergency generator stands ready. And there are books to be read, some old favorites to be re-read.
The nesting urge is strong this final weekend before winter’s onset, even with the holiday rush about to reach its zenith. Surely it’s the physical product of daily sunlight being near its nadir.
But it’s also the mental specter of the coziness of the Christmas that is nigh, no matter that some early forecasts are calling for the eve and the day to be in the 60s, more suitable for a visit from the Easter Bunny than Saint Nick.
Alas, the poet’s woods soon enough will be snow-filled and, as Robert Frost put it, “lovely, dark and deep.” And as with Frost, I, too, will pause to savor it, knowing full well that I also have many metaphorical miles to go before I sleep.
Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org).