We’ve relied on paper snowflakes to offer us a white season this year. From late December 2011 to early January 2012 in western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities, our only freezing precipitation came as a treacherous slick of freezing-rain-turned-crusty-snow late on New Year’s Eve and into New Year’s morning. It melted a few days later. Since then, the view out of the dining room window at my family home in River Falls has been brown–punctuated by the lacy white lines of paper snowflakes that my mom, my niece, and I cut over Christmas. “If it doesn’t snow outside, we can make snow inside,” we said.
When I returned to the area from Montana via Amtrak in late December, I had hoped to discover white fields and snowbank-lined driveways, which usually mark the winter solstice period and holiday season in this part of my home state. But it was all brown. My niece quoted her former kindergarten teacher to me on my first day home: “It’s days before Christmas, and it looks like spring out there.”
Her observation had an “isn’t that remarkable?” kind of awe. It drew attention to what’s novel about the weather this season, and we can all relate to what’s novel. But was there a sadness in her voice, too? Maybe I was just hearing the disappointment in me, reacting to the uneasiness that’s hard to express: something’s not right. As much as I appreciated safe travel conditions on snow-free roads and didn’t mind being relieved of typical shoveling duties during my visit home this year, the anomaly season is disconcerting. If something’s not quite right with this, is something wrong?
For my brother in San Diego, who could not come home for Christmas this year because of his work schedule, our snow-less season caused the opposite of uneasiness. It was clear he would have liked to be home with us, or imagine being home with us, when he asked how much snow we had here. When he heard we didn’t have any, he seemed relieved: at least he was not missing out on the snow.
Yesterday, on January 10, we set a record high of 53 degrees in the Twin Cities area. Trees have begun budding. Golfers took to the courses in Central Wisconsin. One was quoted on the news last night: “It’s the first time I’ve been able to golf in January. Now I’ve golfed in all months in Wisconsin.”
This snow-less spell, of course, is just that–a spell–at least, I hope. Last night’s news reports about the day’s record-setting temperatures were tempered by “but.” We set a high, but winter is coming back. The temperatures are set to plummet, and the air should be alive with flurry by this afternoon–just in time for me to watch the rosy-light of an evening snowfall from my train window as I head West tonight. After a 3-week visit home with no snow, the flurries will usher me out: relief. I think.