Saturday, January 6, 2007

Climate Oddity

Comment by Yves (current length of day 8h 1m):

“Over here [in England], I don't know how many public holidays there are, but people take days off before Christmas, between Christmas and New Year, and into the first week of January. The roads are empty. But at this time of year I have always felt the public holidays are enough, and the best place to be is at work, because it is so dark and dead outside. Spring and summer are the time for holidays!”

Comment by Freyashawk (length of day 9h 23m):

“I feel compelled to write something positive about Winter and the time of Darkness. In Northern cultures, Winter traditionally was the time when labour ceased to be unremitting, when the fields lay blanketed by snow and families were kept at home. In the warmth of a fire, stories would be told and crafts would be undertaken to keep minds and bodies occupied during the time of 'rest'. Winter is a season when Nature slumbers. It is a season when the light of the Sun is supplanted by the light and warmth of the hearth. I love Winter in the North. It is a season of small lights and warm fires rather than a season of suffocating heat. It is traditionally a season of rest and meditation.”

Being a native Floridian (current length of day 10h 21m), I must put in a few words about my subtropical climate, which only occasionally makes one feel like holing up indoors and warding off the great darkness of winter with fires. True, our Florida sun moves south in winter, our days shrink, and like our Nordic brothers and sisters we bring in evergreen trees and mistletoe and love small lights, but it never snows and the winter is much easier on us than it is in northern climes.

From November till February it is more like a long Virginia autumn than a real winter. We have no snow, but we have occasional freezing weather interspersed with warm days – so that when I telephoned my parents on some winter holiday from the ice-bound landscape of Washington State or a snowy day in England I never knew if they would be warming themselves in front of the fireplace or sitting outdoors in the sun enjoying iced tea.

I wouldn’t mention this except that we have having such extraordinary weather in Central Florida this year.

Usually it stays as warm as summer right through September, when shortly before Halloween the first cold front passes through and drops the temperatures into the 40's at night. There are sure to be some warmer periods after that, but around Christmas we almost always begin to get really cold weather – freezing temperatures, perhaps even briefly in the 20’s around dawn, enhanced by gusty winds. From then on during a “normal” winter the cold fronts which periodically move down from the northwest United States bring cold or even freezing weather, relieved between the fronts by daytime temperatures in the low 70’s

But not this winter. There was no Halloween cold snap, nor was Santa Claus' sleigh sped by icy winds. I was still swimming in December. We are getting the warm days without the cold days. The thermometer once went down into the 40’s overnight but soon rose again to night temperatures in the 60’s. For quite awhile it has been no lower than 60 overnight and in the high 70’s and even 80’s during the days.

The kind of weather we’re having – 82 degrees today and 79 tomorrow – is most unusual. I’m not qualified to join the global warming debate, but it certainly is warm . . . and I love it. I hope to continue enjoying it until Florida is submerged by melting glaciers, or until, preferably, my home thirty miles from the Atlantic Ocean becomes oceanfront property.


  1. In today's entry, you demonstrate how physical location and weather affects our perceptions of 'holidays' and 'festivals'. You are in Florida. Yves is in England. I am in the Northeast but on the other side of the Atlantic (alas!).

    As far as being at work is concerned, I do not feel that is incompatible with celebration of a 'festival'. I remember the days when one could not find a single shop open in England on Christmas and when the hours when off-licence shops were open severely restricted the 'holiday spirit' for those who felt that drinking and celebration went hand-in-hand. When last in England, it had become more like the States, for better or worse. There is something to be said for convenience, but I don't like the way holidays virtually are ignored in the States except where shopping is concerned, and Christmas and New Year are the occasion of huge sales and more spending rather than days to be spent with family and/or friends.

    Holidays and festivals traditionally are times for community as well as loved ones. Often the workplace becomes a community of its own and parties that are held at work are true celebrations. (Sometimes they are a terrible bore, a forced congregation of individuals who detest one another and a situation where a false camaraderie prevails. It all depends on the situation.)

    For me, a holiday or festival primarily exists to remind us of our traditions. It is a connection between past, present and future, in that it is an opportunity to pass these traditions on to future generations. There were times in my life, particularly during adolescence, when I was bored by some of our holidays, but I am grateful now that I was forced to endure them. Many of those memories, distilled through time, have become precious to me.

    I have to say, however, that I disagree with Yves. The winter can be very dark and dreary for us as well in physical terms in the Northeast, but one can love those dark days for the opportunities they bring to relax by a cheerful fire (if one has such a luxury, which I don't at present) or even to take refuge beneath a duvet in order to read a good book, watch a favourite film or play a video game...

    Rain can be dreary and monotonous, although the sound of rain beating down on the roof or making its assault on the windows can be beautiful and comforting as well, making one aware of the fact that one is dry and grateful for the refuge that home and hearth provide. Snow is magical, even when it seals one within the house, and one must create a path through it in order to regain one's physical freedom. If I lived in a place where the snow never melted for months and months, I might feel differently, but here it is not a constant presence throughout the winter, and I would miss it if I were to move to a place like Florida.

    Again, I maintain that Winter makes the Spring and Summer more beautiful and that it is the contrast between the Seasons that give them some of their powerful magic.

  2. Freyashawk, I'll admit that although I did not see snow until I was 22 years old, winter is not winter without snow. I will always abhor being cold, but six inches or a foot of snow falling overnight makes being cold worthwhile. To one who saw nothing but water falling from sky for 22 years, flurries of white flakes drifting down and transforming the Earth is simply magical. Here where I live there is just one landscape. Where you live you can enjoy two entirely different landscapes, thanks to the snow.