I know it. You know it. The entire northern hemisphere knows it. So why am I the only one panicking and doomsday prepping like a crazy person? Because I’m keenly attuned to seasonal nuance, that’s why. I can feel the menacing approach of winter from here, early September, when shorts and flip-flops are still a thing.
Oh, dear, did you think the wicked I’m fearing is melting ice caps, the rising tide of fascism, monkeypox, or any of the myriad threats stalking us? Sorry, no, I’m not that sensible. The wicked I fear is the agonizing misery of brutal cold. I know, that sounds cracked, but do you know what cold does to the human body? It kills you. Dead.
But, first, your muscles shiver, your teeth chatter, the hairs on your body rise, and your flesh erupts in goosebumps. That’s because the hypothalamus, a gland in our brains that acts as the body’s thermostat, is trying to keep our cores warm at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing our extremities — fingers and toes, ears, legs. In World War II, for instance, truck and tank engines froze solid, guns wouldn’t fire, and thousands of soldiers had their eyelids frozen off or froze to death themselves in the murderous cold along the Eastern front.
Humans just aren’t designed to withstand extreme cold. Polar animals are. They have thick, dense winter coats of fur or they’re encased in fat, sometimes inches thick. Humans have naked skin and relatively little fat. Me, one such human, defines extreme cold as any temperature below 75º. I wish I was joking. I’m not. That’s why I’m panicking and doomsday prepping, which, by the way, amounts to little more than marathon shopping for plentiful layers of comically heavy clothing, plus books to keep me entertained and distracted.
Guess what I discovered, though, by way of gobsmacking epiphany. There’s a teensy weensy, but very real, upside to winter.
It is quiet.
Spring, summer, and early autumn are a raucous, well-deserved celebration of nature’s cease-fire. By late-August, though, we’re exhausted and in energy saving mode. Soon, the ritual will begin. We’ll drag in the lawn chairs, windows will close, sidewalks empty, leaves fall, and snow will come pelting out of the sky. A hush will blanket the world, occasionally punctured by the rumble of snowplows or an icicle creaking or teeth chattering or …
S’cuse me, I have to lie down.
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