Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter? That was fast

We had winter a week ago. A soft, steady, rather modest snowfall fell on a Saturday and kept up all day, leaving us about four or five inches at the end. It was a very well-behaved meteorological event, arriving on a day when it wouldn’t foul up a commute and lacking the gusty winds that make for drifts. Still, the local plow crews hit the roads early and often, as if to make up for a snowless winter in one day. We made a snowday of it as well, not moving the car from the driveway or going outside except to shovel, pretending we were snowed in.
Two days later the snow was gone. So much for winter.
A warm winter is good for keeping down the fuel costs and for anybody suffering from substandard (or no) housing. But, as we say around here, “It tain’t natural.”
In many respects, the absence of a proper winter with its deep freezes and substantial snow packs may not in fact be good for nature and, need we be reminded?, we are all natural beings. The absence of a snow pack may result in water shortages in areas that rely on it to make the rivers and streams run hard in the spring and fill reservoirs, underground streams, and aquifers.
And where is the water that ordinarily gets tied up in snow accumulations in latitudes such as ours? Remember the recent record snow accumulations in locations such as New York City and Washington, D.C.? Is that water – that weather – going somewhere else this year? Our daughter reports a rainy winter in Beirut, but winters typically are rainy there, characterized by fierce downpours. What’s different this year is no sunny days between the rainy ones. So where did Lebanon’s sun go?
Other obvious concerns. Winter kills pests – insects, microbes, germs, diseases. Our ecology needs the deep, killing frosts to reduce the numbers of those tough, otherwise invulnerable creatures that make it hard on us in summers. Will a warm winter and early spring mean the mosquitoes get a head start this year? What about all those flu germs we ordinarily put out of mind until the next “winter flu” season. Will we start having warm weather flu seasons?
We have a common “black spot” disease in our roses. I don’t know if it’s properly a fungus, or a mite, or a mildew, or any of those other distressing names I read about in gardening books (and remain mostly ignorant of), or some combination of all. But I have to think winter cold sets it back each year, enough to gives us that annual booster wave of June blooms. I’d hate be fighting it with organic sprays and shamanistic charms any earlier than I have to as it is by mid-summer.
Every gardener has a plant disease story, and none of us really want to hear them.
So let’s get on to a happier subject – spring. But even here I am worried. Spring winds up its impact from the hard-rock resistance of winter. It builds on contrast. It moves insides us because of what has come before.
I want to know when winter is over so I can celebrate, and exult, and go quietly mad over spring. But how can winter be over if it never really happened?