January 20, 2019

The View from My Hill


As I write this, Seekonk and neighboring towns are in the middle of a gripping cold spell. There’s barely a dusting of snow on the ground, but it’s sure to remain there for a while if the temperature remains below freezing.

I am sitting in my living room, next to my wood stove, trying to stay warm on one of the coldest nights in this bitter string of cold nights that we have suffered through. Usually I can count on the heat from the stove to warm at least this one room, but not on this day. It struggles to send any measurable warmth beyond a few feet. It is that cold. Luckily, the furnace kicks in and it does warm enough to bring the temperature up a few degrees. I have on long johns, sweat pants, a sweat shirt, the very warmest socks I own and my warm slippers. A fleece blanket made for me by my granddaughters is draped over my lap. And still I cannot get warm.

In lieu of wearing gloves in the house, my fingers hold tight to the heat of a cup of freshly brewed coffee, holding it for the warmth more than the caffeine.

As my fingers slowly come back to life from hauling in more firewood off the back porch, I think back to the various winter forecasts I remembered hearing for this winter of 2017 – 2018. I didn’t think it was going to get this cold this year, I mutter aloud to no one in particular. Didn’t ‘they’ say it was going to be a mild winter? Just to be sure that I was remembering correctly, I turned to the web and searched for the forecast for our part of New England.

What I found however, was definitely a difference of opinion. Back in October, we were told that warmer than average conditions would occur in New England during meteorological winter (December 1 – February 28th). Now that was not an amateur forecaster that made that prediction. No, it was none other that NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – in other words – the weather experts. December, they said, would feature above normal temperatures. It seems they got it wrong.

I also reread the Farmer’s Almanac forecast that said New England would be cold and snowy. Um…isn’t that the very definition of winter around these parts? Sure, we have had some mild winters lately, but it usually is cold and snowy in the winter…in New England. It doesn’t take an expert to know that. Not really.

So far, we have had a winter’s worth of biting cold days and nights, and a few light snowfalls (including a beautiful, but brief burst of snow on Christmas morning). I couldn’t find this prediction in any forecasts.

Someone I know from church mentioned the other day that Native Americans believe that the date the first snow falls is a predictor of how many subsequent snowfalls we are going to get in any given season. After doing some research on the web, I can’t find anything that would substantiate her claim. But if what she says is true…we are in for at least 18 more snow falls. That’s almost two snow falls a week through February!

The bottom line I guess is that winter will be what it will be. Forecasts are not 100% accurate. It will be cold, we will get some snow, and we most likely will also get some beautiful above average days that will tease us into thinking that the greening of spring is just around the corner. In the meantime, we will try to hold off the feeling of cabin fever that is sure to set in. 

Yesterday I received the first seed catalogue of the season. On the cover is a well tendered garden. Ripe tomatoes hang from their verdant stems. I think I will leave this catalogue out where it can remind me that spring will come.

For now, perhaps I should think about changing the name of this column to the view from the frozen tundra.


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