Indoor Day

Today will be a quintessential indoor day. It’s 33 degrees outside, freezing rain has coated the steps and trees and bushes in the backyard, like the one shown above, in a coat of wet, dripping ice, and a hard rain is still pelting down under flat gray skies — and is supposed to continue all day. It’s the kind of day when walking on frozen brick is especially treacherous, when an umbrella will quickly become heavy with ice, and you’re likely to find yourself taking an unwelcome pratfall that leaves you bruised and soaked.

So why risk the elements? Why not accept nature’s wintry verdict, do a few chores inside, and find a good book to read or a TV show to binge watch? Sometimes surviving the bleakness of winter requires acceptance — and savvy avoidance.

Springtime In January

As I write this it’s 67 degrees outside — in Columbus, Ohio, on January 11 — and the weather app says we’ll hit a high of 69. The photo above aptly captures my reaction to this development.

Alas, it’s temporary. The temperature is supposed to plunge down to the 30s overnight, and then we’ll be back to winter again. Enjoy the fluky weather while it lasts!

Seattle’s Darkest Day

Last Friday was a pretty dark day for Seattle.  Literally.

seattle-1In 1996, the University of Washington installed three pyranometers on the roof of one of its facilities in Seattle.  The pyranometers measure the amount of solar radiation (also known as sunshine) that reaches the surface of the earth.  On Friday, the devices registered an output of only a measly 0.37 megajoules of solar radiation per square meter — the lowest recorded daily measurement for the devices since the date of their installation.  The culprits for the dismal results — literally — were the very short day caused by the approaching winter solstice, heavy cloud cover, and heavy rain, too.

I can sympathize with the Seattle residents who cursed the infernal darkness last Friday.  I’m not sure whether we’ve got any pyranometers measuring the solar radiation in Columbus, but if there are, they’d be measuring pitiful amounts these days.  In the Midwest, our winters tend to be pretty gloomy affairs, too.  It’s not that we get a lot of snow — typically, we don’t.  Instead, it’s the unrelenting damp, heavy grayness that makes you feel like you’re living and working under a wet woolen blanket.  When the sun actually shines, all too briefly, it’s a cause for riotous celebration.

There’s a reason so many Midwesterners are snowbirds who head south for the winter.  Sure, they’re searching for warmth, but they’re also on a quest for much-needed sunshine.  Their internal pyranometers are telling them that they need to up their personal exposure to those bright, happy megajoules.

Thin-Blooded Again

By the end of last winter, I was a hardened Winter Warrior.  With my hat and coat and scarf and gloves and my flinty exterior, I could walk through sub-zero temperatures and polar breezes without flinching.  In fact, I found the chill bracing.

blood-circulation-signsNow, an all-too-brief spring and summer and autumn later, I find that I’m once again a candy ass who shivers when walking out into temperatures in the teens and feels like all color has been blanched from my face by a brisk wind.  It’s kind of embarrassing.

My grandmother would say that I’ve become thin-blooded.  It’s what she said about people who complained about the cold temperatures and snow and weren’t ready to brave the Midwestern winters.

Of course, blood is blood.  Any scientist would tell you that it doesn’t become thicker during the harsh winter and thinner when the thermometer hits the 70s and 80s.  But I always think of the thin blood concept when the first arctic blast hits the Midwest.  It’s time to get out in the frosty air and thicken that blood up to prepare for the winter to come.

Snow, No!

Well, the dreaded cold front has hit Columbus, dumping snow and knocking temperatures down to the low 20s. The snow left a weird pattern on our back patio, like it was trying to inscribe satanic symbols or ancient runes on the flagstone.

I’m not ready for this. November 12 is just way too early for snow-covered ground and the mercury hovering around 20. A few drifting snowflakes to remind us that winter is on its way would have been okay — but not a hard freeze, enough accumulation to wreak havoc with the morning rush hour, and the need to haul out the winter overcoat already.