Winter Is

Winter, or winter solstice, arrived Saturday, at local noon. Winter means different things to different people, depending on their latitudinal positioning.

My own experience with winter has been molded and shaped by half a century of living in a northern climate, especially growing up prior to our current weather state of flux. Because of this, II tend to view winter through a prism of cold, snow, and ice.

We’ve had some significant ice events during my lifetime. The last one was in 1998. That was historic and no amount of pre-event hype captured the reality of trees cracking and coming down all around, roadways blocked off east, west, north and south, nor being without power for eight days, or even longer.

Our current ideation of winter is very different than the one that I came into the world to in January, 1962. Back in the days of Kennedy, winter was long and cold, with lots of snow. Now, winter is still as severe, but what’s noticeably different–is it’s unpredictability. We can go from below zero temperatures to rain and even spring or summer-like temperatures in the span of a few days.

This past weekend, while parts of Maine and the northeast were battling the end result of just ½ inch of ice coating trees and power lines, parts of southern New England were in the 60s and even 70s. All of this is just shrugged off, or if commented on, it’s usually something like, “we sure are having weird weather.” Yes. It’s called climate change.

What I think is equally significant is that these extremes lull people into a false security. In the past, when winters were long and harsh, precautions were taken, people were proactive in their preparation. Wood was gathered, shovels and other tools for winter inspected, repaired, or replaced. Canning and “putting up food” was a practice that allowed those in cold climates to enjoy memories and the tastes of summer past. Some of these arts and skills seem to be making a comeback.

Still, there seems to be an expectation with many that winter is just like every other problem, solved by downloading an app on their smartphones. It isn’t. With all due respect to self-driving cars and technology, they have a formidable opponent when Mother Nature lets loose with one of her many weather events. As I mentioned, a day of icing and less than an inch of icing on trees and power lines can cause life as we know it to come to a standstill. Others know the devastation that comes with winds and hurricanes, or the approach of a funnel cloud.

Icy walkways and driveways equal sand

Tools for an ice storm.

Winter can be harsh. If you are a homeowner, your experience might be different than being a renter. One thing I’ve learned over 20+ years of living outside on a large piece of property; winter visits and brings a never-ending list of tasks. Here are a just a few things I’ve been active with over the past week.

  • Shoveling
  • Splitting and carry wood
  • Roof-raking
  • Visiting our local sand pit and filling pails with driveway sand
  • Sanding driveway and walks

’m also reminded time and time again that drivers no longer respect winter road conditions like those of us of a certain age do; some of us have even had the good fortune to receive employer-sponsored defensive driving training.

Things like the following are no longer followed, or even considered.

  • Safe following distances
  • Not jamming on your brakes on ice or slippery surfaces
  • Having proper tires on your ride
  • Driving speeds appropriate for the weather conditions

Despite the extra work and the occasional inconvenience of winter’s varied moods and shades of weather, there’s one thing I’m especially grateful for. Winter teaches me that humans have farmed out too many elements of life. We’ve come to depend on someone else for almost everything. Winter reminds me of the things that are good to know about because one day, we may have to take them all back.

Happiness is a Sanded Driveway.

Happiness is a Sanded Driveway.

Some of us already have and continue to find ways to live more like a human and less like a machine.


I planned to post this on Tuesday, my regular posting day here at the JBE. Unfortunately, the ice got just thick enough to knock out our power for 28 hours. We got a nice gift courtesy of Central Maine Power at 1:00 this morning; power!!

This will also be my last post prior to my usual, end-of-year round-up of books I’ve read during 2013.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!

2 thoughts on “Winter Is

  1. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve seen what was ahead of me, kept a safe distance and reacted safely, only to look in my rearview and watch a distracted woman (always a woman, simple factual statement) barrel into my rear end. It happened in Georgia, it happened in Italy (twice), and it happened in Maine under very similar circumstances. You know that long hill on I-95 going south from the Topsham exit. In a heavy snow with light accumulation (1-2 inches) I saw the pile-up at the bottom of the hill, downshifted, braked under control to the inside breakdown lane. Then I looked in the rearview and watched them come over the top of the hill at speed far above what the weather dictated, panic, slam on the brakes, and now slide with no steering at high speed. Fortunately, she only grazed me.

    What freaked me out worse, though, was black ice on a Maryland back road. I couldn’t figure out why I was driving sideways for a few seconds until I realized there was no sun on this road cut through a hillside. I downshifted and regained control, thankful no one had been around me.

    Folks, take it easy. Slow down. It’s just not that important to get there thirty seconds quicker.

    Merry Christmas, drive safely.

    • I think there’s an art to “feeling the road” and knowing what’s below you when driving. You don’t often get a do-over if you don’t employ those defensive skills I mentioned and you are reiterating, LP.

      I remember driving north on I-295 and to my right, I saw an SUV, driven by a woman (I’m sorry) spin in a circle and go off the side of the interstate. I knew immediately the vehicle started to fishtail and rather than letting up on the accelerator a bit, she jammed on the brakes.

      Many of the so-called vehicle safety improvements have been offset by drivers now pushing the envelope because those safety features make drivers feel invincible.

      Maybe because I spent winters driving on bald tires (in Indiana, when I couldn’t afford good tires), owning a land yacht, with rear-world drive, and then, spending 10 winters driving in every winter condition seen in the northeast when I worked for CMP, my experience has saved my ass numerous times.

      It is frustrating, however, when the “assholes” (my term) that you are speaking about, LP, endanger us, as we employ proactive, defensive techniques.

      Merry Christmas to you, LP, as you bask in the land of perpetual sunshine.

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