Winter is full of its ups and downs, both in our moods and in the temperatures. Helene Phelps reminds us what is so wonderful about these dips and swings.
In summertime, the terms “dip and swing” sets a seventeen foot canoe in motion, dodging boulders and downed trees on river ways — or gliding into good fishing territory on inland lakes in Wisconsin’s Far North.
In wintertime, it’s the temperature that swings and dips wildly in waves and colors — on the landscape — and on the evening news. Arctic air masses are part of this season’s waltz, blasting through Canadian provinces and on down through the Dakotas and Minnesota before it whooshes through my neck of the woods near Brule to continue its due course.
When temperatures drop below the invisible below zero mark, it’s a frosty reminder that we really do live in the North.
Today begins the downward creep from yesterday’s fresh snow and balmy 32 degree breezes. Thirty two becomes one half of that, showing 16 at six a.m. Soon, they say, as we snooze away, the mercury will go as low as minus 15. Not too bad for these parts.
Now dropping to 11 degrees with a wind-chill of minus 2 at 10:03, the new morning is gray and white. The day is growing older. And c-o-l-d-e-r.
The neighborhood bird feeders beckon chickadees by the dozen. Nut hatches too — and all manner of woodpeckers. They all take turns, but they are messy. Dropped seed is the siren call for wild turkeys lurking near. These funny looking creatures actually run across the open when they see smaller breeds feeding. They are smart it seems, and know when the frozen ground will offer speckles of sunflower and millet.
This is winter entertainment at its best.
But mostly in Northern Wisconsin, our neighbors are fur-covered and four-legged. The crisscross tracks of deer, herding and hiding out, keeping warm, protecting each other with their thermal overcoats… the squat bob cat that steps lightly so near the wood shed but is never-ever seen… the enormous porcupine balanced on the tip-top limb of the virgin white pine near the creek (he is likely on the lookout for spring)… the coyotes and eagles circling land and air for a free lunch. All these and smaller critters too, choose, like me, not to relocate when the season dips to cold and white.
Wood stoves crackle and hiss, transforming last year’s oak into soft, gray ash. The aroma of chimney smoke fills us with dreams of green arching up out of snowbanks. April or May… it’s anyone’s guess when the first ephemerals will appear! But we are a patient bunch.
In Northern Wisconsin we all bundle up and hunker down… we ski and snowshoe and hope the forest creatures are as snug and safe as hibernating humans… we measure our days in pea soup and pages turned, short walks and warming up during downy naps.
And we wear fat socks.