January 2011

Why is heat better than sleet?

By Gail Binkly

The winter solstice is past, that time that marks the longest, darkest night of the year. Now begins the inevitable march toward summer once again.

As I do annually, I mourn.

You see, I’m one of a rare, much-despised group whose philosophy draws more contempt than a liberal at a Tea Party rally, or a vegetarian at the National Stock Show. We have no formal name, but I think of us simply as winter people.

I was in my teens when I began to recognize that I was “different.” While normal humans were lamenting the end of summer, I was thrilled by the crisp bite of the autumn wind. When regular folks were cursing the cold, I was dancing outside in blizzards, crying, “Let it snow!” And when I heard “White Christmas” on the radio, I secretly wished it were frosty white all year long.

Sure, I sometimes longed to be like the majority. I kind of figured once I grew older, I’d turn into one of those thin-blooded people who move to Florida and never switch on their air-conditioning.

So far it hasn’t happened. Every fall I think, maybe this will be the year when I decide winter’s impending inconveniences – scraping windshields, shoveling walks, scraping ice off the shingles on my roof – will begin to pall, but these minor chores still pale compared to the non-stop frenetic human activity associated with summer’s long, warm days: Lawn-mowing, weed-pulling, flower-growing, tilling and sowing from dawn till dusk. Snow is the great equalizer. Under a frozen blanket, everyone’s yard looks the same.

I have yet to comprehend the appeal of summer. Beyond fresh vegetables, what does it have to offer? The migraine-inducing heat, the hard, hateful sun stabbing into your eyes, mosquitoes and wasps biting and stinging. Not to mention lightning. At least in the winter I can go for a walk without the sky raining bolts of death down upon me.

To me, there is nothing so beautiful as a winter day: The subtle pastel pinks and blues of the snow and sky as the sun goes down, the long, starry nights before it rises again.

And, above all, the stillness. The dogs are indoors, the motorcycles’ flatulent flourishes are absent, no one is driving by with rap music pounding out of his open windows.

But when I hesitantly mention my fondness for cold weather to people, they have one of two reactions: They eye me strangely, as if I’d announced that I eat worms for breakfast; or they respond with outright anger, as if I were the White Witch of Narnia and by merely speaking the words, “I like winter,” I could bring about a new Ice Age.

You may ask why I don’t simply move somewhere more to my liking, such as the Yukon. The sad fact is that I am a member of a mixed marriage: winter person with summer person. My husband shivers when it’s 60 degrees outside. I have often speculated, only half in jest, that upon retirement, he is going to have to live in the Sonoran Desert, while I homestead in North Dakota. We can get together for holidays.

He’ll definitely have more company in his sunny clime than I will. Prejudice is strong against snow and ice, November and December. You can hear it in the words of the TV weathermen and -women. “More ‘nice’ weather tomorrow,” they’ll say when the temperature is a sizzling 95. Why is sleet labeled “bad” and heat regarded as benevolent? Someday I’m going to demand equal treatment for frost and freezing winds.

For now, however, I’m in the minority – a tiny minority. But there are a few of us. Early in December, I ran into an old acquaintance, a very nice lady whom I admire, and we got to talking about the unseasonable warmth. “Last year, my back yard was two feet deep in snow for months,” I told her. “I know,” she said, adding, “I couldn’t see the top of my fence until March.”

I heard the wistful tone in her voice. “Do you like winter?” I whispered, looking around to make sure no one else was near.

“I love it,” she admitted. “But you can’t say that around here.”

Maybe we need a club, a secret society – Winter-Lovers Anonymous. We could meet in a snow cave and show each other pictures of the icicles hanging from our eaves. Our slogan could be, “In the midst of summer, I found there was, within me, an invincible winter.”

Gail Binkly is editor of the Four Corners Free Press.