Cumberland Times-News

January 7, 2014

It’s winter

Forecasts scientific, but becoming more scary

To the Editor:
Cumberland Times-News

— Like most people, we like to talk about the weather, but it’s rare when we actually get up off the couch to do something about it.

Yet the cold snap this week, with discussion of the “polar vortex” and numbers of minus-this or minus-that, had us remi­niscing about what it was like back in the day.

Some of the older folks among us may understand that what is happening to­day, historically speaking, was then known as “win­ter.”

It has a long history and, in fact, seemed to come around about every year or so.

That was before breath­able and waterproof mira­cle fabrics, or even polar fleece longjohns. We had Woolrich hunting jackets, dark red with a thin weave of black plaid. They still sell those today, and they’re still as expensive as they were then.

But they were the only good hunting gear we could get. Even if they got wet, the thick wool would provide some warmth. And we could almost dry them out if we hung them overnight next to the hunt­ing camp’s stove. Almost.

Back then, there were several less-scientific an­swers to the question of the day: Just how cold was it?

Well, there was “It’s nip­py out there,” and then it progressed to “It’s durn cold,” and then it went to “It’s pretty durn cold!” all the way to “It’s awful durned cold!”

Times were simpler then, and that was good enough. It guided us as we set about our chores, be they city work or farm work, shovel­ing snow or feeding ani­mals and livestock. No weather was so bad that animals were allowed to go unfed or unsheltered.

Those descriptions, though, weren’t good enough for modern weath­ercasters. So they had to invent the “wind-chill fac­tor,” so they could put a number to “It’s durn cold — and windy!” in order to make us feel even colder.

The frigid weather we’re seeing is part of an ancient rhythm, a short phase in the lovely changes we expe­rience as we pass through the seasons.

Winter itself is something to be celebrated. For with­out it, and these long nights and cold days, we would not feel so exhilarat­ed at the arrival of spring.

It was ever thus, and the first warmish days of a new year complete an eternal cycle of life, death and re­birth.

There are no numbers to measure what that means to the human spirit.