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An Unusual Winter

Winter is different this year. The ground, frozen for weeks leading up to the New Year, thawed in a warming trend that hit New England in the first few weeks of the year. We sometimes say we’re grateful when it rains instead of snows here, knowing the general equation of one inch of rain equalling one foot of snow, but some of us actually prefer the snow. And when it finally came after the thaw and heavy rains, it made for muddy cleanup when you dared stray off the pavement. Yes, winter is finally here, sort of, and fashionably late, so enjoy it while you can. Just don’t go straying out on pond ice or try to steer a snowblower across the lawn to the shed. Each of these reckless acts will end in regret.

Plenty of friends and acquaintances celebrate a mild winter. Perennially overextended, they’d rather deal with snow on their terms, with a quick ride up I-93 to the ski resorts. “Let them have the snow;” they say, “we’d rather not deal with it here”. As if we aren’t meant to have it here. Here isn’t all that far from there, I think, and winter has retreated enough already.

I’m more sympathetic with the aged and the frail amongst us. Shoveling and navigating the world is a lot more complicated for them when you add heavy snow. This is where a sense of community is essential, to help those who might not be physically able to help themselves. Like snow, we accumulate awareness and empathy over time, and learn to check in on people more than we might have when we were younger and more carefree.

We witness the changes in those we know moving from vibrant wrestlers of winter conditions to a more fragile condition. On days of particularly heavy and wet snow, we learn to face our own move to a more fragile condition. They call it “heart attack snow” for a reason, and something as mundane as shoveling snow can be a reckless act if our heart isn’t up for the task. We ought to celebrate the things we can do now, like walking in snow through the woods to visit a pond or simply shoveling the deck, for one day it will be beyond our reach.

After cleaning up the remnants of the latest storm, I took a walk through the woods to see how winter was treating a local pond. During the drought of summer it had dropped to sad levels. With the rains of autumn and winter the water levels were back to normal and now coated with a slushy ice coating that wasn’t to be trusted. Still, it made for a pretty winter scene on a quiet winter morning. Moments like this are what we remember about winter, even as we forget that winter isn’t what it once was.

Facing the changes this winter, it’s easy to see that everything is connected. Everything has its time, maybe even normal winters. With things like climate and physical fitness, we ought to do what we can while we can. Regret is no way to cap a window of time when it closes.

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