It’s a tradition here in the Joe Zone to welcome the December solstice, when the winter invades the Northern Hemisphere. Yesterday, December 21, was that day. Excuse me while I cover my ears to protect me from the shrieking – mine, I mean.
Many people love to complain about the weather. I know I do; in fact, it’s one of my best talents. I could even say I’m gifted in the area of weather grumping. So let’s objectively examine the hated season of winter, that abysmal time of year when death would be welcome relief. I can feel myself curling up like one of the dry, lifeless leaves shriveling and shivering on my lawn, under six inches of ice.
Of course, winter isn’t all bad. Some people actually like winter, and in fact look forward to it. They enjoy the cold, the snow, the lack of light, the misery, the depression, the soul-sucking numbness that winter brings. It’s an acquired taste.
Welcome or not, the winter solstice has come. Sol, of course, is what we call the sun (at least, those of us on a first-name basis with it), so it’s easy to figure out that the word “solstice” comes from shortening “Sol stuck in ice.” Similarly, “December” refers to the “declining ember” of the sun in the winter sky. English is actually a very easy and obvious language, if we just pay attention.
One of winter’s few redeeming virtues is that it contains Christmas, that special time of joy, hope, renewal, and bonding with annoying family members that you wish were stuck in ice – preferably a distant glacier. But it’s the time of goodwill towards all, not just those we like, so we suck it up. However, Christmas comes just a few days after winter’s arrival, so once it’s gone, we’re facing three months of frigid darkness with not much to brighten our days. Some people like to counter the winter blahs with activities, like skiing. That works quite well, as the broken bones take your mind off of the weather.
The first day of winter is sometimes called the shortest day of the year, meaning it has the fewest hours of daylight. The actual number of hours varies by latitude. It’s about nine hours and fifteen minutes in the Pittsburgh area, which means, taking into account naps, clouds, and blinking, we see the sun for about 37 seconds. Fortunately, the hours of light increase daily, even as the temperatures continue their long, sickening slide into the tank, so that by the time average temperatures reach their minimum in late January, we’ll see about three and a half minutes of sunlight per day. This is just as well, because when we get more than ten minutes of sun, I need to start using sunblock.
And now, what better way to pay homage to winter, than to conclude with a few lines of lame, hackneyed verse? I have no idea, so here once again is my Ode to Winter:
Autumn is history, winter is here,
Let’s all greet it with a boo and a jeer.
My fingers are numb, my brain is number,
My toes just broke off, geez what a bummer!
My blood has stopped flowing, I need intervention,
My body is in cryogenic suspension.
Look out all, here comes the Polar Vortex!
My brain is frozen, my medulla and cortex.
A beach! The sun! I need some Fahrenheit!
I’m frozen throughout, my face is all barren white!
Get me a hot tub, be my hero,
My body temp’s down to absolute zero.
I’m a frozen Joe-pop, in need of resuscitation,
Thaw me out with a torch, or an equatorial vacation.