Good news or bad news?

This Saturday, February the 3rd, marks the midway point of winter. That means I’m fifty percent done with shoveling snow, driving with white knuckles, and despairing over the acceleration of the inevitable rusting of my car’s undercarriage. I’m not complaining, mind you; having a temporarily salt-covered motor vehicle is better than having knuckleheads who drive on icy roads the same way they do in midsummer lose control of their car or truck and plunge into a ditch. Or worse, having such knuckleheads lose control of their vehicle and hitting me and/or my vehicle with theirs. The bottom line: knowing it won’t be long before I can swap my Bean boots for some comfy sneakers and get my bike back on the road has me feeling energized!

But my reaction to passing winter’s halfway point is markedly different from that of a significant number of my friends and neighbors. For them the looming onset of spring means the days they have to snowboard, ski, ice fish, or snowmobile are numbered. Winter’s inevitable demise is also depressing for the people who run ski areas, not to mention pond hockey players and snowshoeing enthusiasts.

Commerce plays a major role in how or if someone reacts to knowing winter is more than half done. Individuals who earn money plowing snow and ice off parking lots and driveways know that particular revenue stream will dry up once wintry precipitation ceases. The same, to a lesser extent, goes for those skilled in the art of curing sick furnaces and/or wood stoves. Keeping such devices operational is always important, but during months when the temperature stays under freezing and occasionally dips below zero, those who provide these services are in even more demand, and the rate of pay they draw when responding to emergencies reflects that.

A person’s reaction to realizing that winter is half over depends to a certain extent on geography. For example, in Vail, Colorado, Whistler, British Columbia, or Carrabassett Valley, Maine, knowing that winter is on the wane can be discouraging, if not downright depressing. It’s not that folks in those parts object to more moderate temperatures, but a lot of people there make their living in the ski industry, and it’s tough to generate business when there’s no snow. By the same token, people in America’s south will greet the news that winter’s at its midpoint with a shrug of their shoulders, if they react to it at all. Below- zero temperatures are unheard of in San Diego or Phoenix, and as far as economic hardship is concerned, well, there aren’t any snowmobile dealerships in Fort Lauderdale that’ll need to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

For all I know people who live in winterless places may look forward to their non-summer months. Miami, Houston, and New Orleans are stiflingly hot for much of the year, so even though they don’t have what people around here think of as “winter,” they probably enjoy whatever respite from the heat and humidity they can get.

In the southern hemisphere right now they too are halfway between the solstice and the equinox, but in their case it’s their summer that’s receding. I’ll bet surfers, jet skiers, and boaters in New Zealand and southern Argentina are experiencing the same vague foreboding that Maine’s snowmobilers are, knowing that in the not-too-distant future they’ll be putting their favorite recreational equipment into storage for eight months.

Outwardly the situation this week is the same for everyone. But whether the news is good or bad depends, as it does with determining visual beauty, on the eye (and attitude) of the beholder.

Andy Young
January 28, 2024

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