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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: The question is: What can we learn from this?


Last updated 12/17/2021 at 11:30am

When your life is rich with irony and sarcasm, it’s easy to become jaded and hardened with the world, like having a nasty case of calcium buildup or plaque over the soul, so I was kind of surprised this week to find out that I could still be surprised.

It is, of course, ridiculous — after more than half a century living in Montana — to be surprised by winter, so perhaps it’s an intelligence issue. I don’t know.

Yes, logically, I know it’s coming. spring, summer, fall, winter, one right after the other, it’s a universal law. Duh. It’s just hard to believe the reality of winter for about eight months out of the year — that’s the majority of the year, in case you aren’t into math.

In spring I’m so relieved for warmth, longer days, sunshine with a little oomph to it, green things, shedding horses, it’s all such a heady mix. How am I supposed to think of winter at a time like that? I just experienced a re-birth of thought along with the flora.

Then summer gets here and, honestly, when the temps get into the 90s and above any memories of winter are laying in the bottom of my mind like the charred bits of meals past sitting at the bottom of the barbecuer. If you keep cooking at high temps long enough, eventually those blackened bits turn into ash and blow away. Winter? I have no recollection of such a thing, only heat and sweat and misery.

You cannot take enough clothing off in the heat to make summer right.

Summer lasts forever — that’s not math, that’s hyperbole.

Fall, then, is a giant relief after that. I thrive in the cool evenings and the brisk mornings. Sometimes in the fall, I look at the frost and couldn’t be more thankful that it arrived before I shipped all my clothes except my underwear and a muumuu to a random, chubby middle-aged woman who lives above the Arctic Circle in Siberia and is desperately attracted to unfashionable clothing. I’m sure she exists. That’s not math either, that’s imagination.

Eventually, we get a cold wintry spell in fall, and it’s miserable. I dislike it intensely, but then we get to the other side of it and I realize that winter is going to be easy breezy lemon squeezy. At that point I plan to continue all my outdoor activities through the winter because I have layers and I’ve just proven myself to be made of some pretty tough stuff. And I am winning at weathering.

Then winter hits. Real winter.

I know I said it’s ridiculous to be surprised by winter every time, but it’s actually something beyond that. Maybe ridiculous to the nth power? Outlandish? Preposterous? Gonzo?

As I write this, I think I’ve had a chill for five days straight, and still I’m bewildered, and more than just a little annoyed if I’m being honest, that I have to put gloves on to go feed horses.

On the outside I’m shivering, but on the inside I’m standing there in street clothes and a down vest that makes me feel hipper than I actually look – we know this because I used the word hip and because inside me has a bewildered look on my face as she taps the thermometer and wonders if the minus-2 degrees reading means that the little digital device is calculating math.

I know math.

“It’s taking a while for the thermometer to come up with the answer to the current temperature,” inside me says. “Yesterday it said 50 degrees, now it’ says minus-2, so 50 minus 2 is 48 degrees today. Awesome! Guess, I’ll grab my cool vest and head on outside to do chores and go for a big walk.”

But my body, despite the hypothermia, is having none of this stupidity.

“I swear, you moron, if you go outside without proper protective clothing — I’m talking boots, insulated pants, your heavy coat, a head covering of some kind and, for the love of flanges, your damn mittens — I will let your fingers freeze, shrivel up and fall straight off this body. And then let’s see you scratch your head to figure what your gonna do with that little problem.”

”Well, if it comes to that,” inside me says, “I’m gonna hire someone to shovel my snow while all of me sits in the warm house and watches. You can’t math your way to a better answer than that.”

And you’re welcome.


Just four days until the solstice and longer days. We really are winning at weather at .


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