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.
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.
Now, 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.
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.
The leaves are starting to turn on Deer Isle, and these ferns on the loop around Dunham Point are leading the way. I had no idea that ferns could be as beautifully colorful as, say, birch or maple leaves. Walking past them was like walking past campfire flames.
As we deal with another day of sweltering heat in the Midwest, let’s all acknowledge the huge debt we owe to Willis Carrier — the guy who invented air conditioning. Where would we be without Willis and his life-changing invention?
Willis’ invention caught on and air conditioning was implemented in many businesses, but it would be decades before air conditioning became common in American homes. The first two houses I remember living in didn’t have central air conditioning. But now, 117 years after Willis Carrier was touched by a stroke of genius, central air conditioning is commonplace, and it’s really hard to imagine life without it.