“Wow, man, is it winter already? Where did the summer go, girl?” I wheezed at the dog. “Much less autumn? I guess the leaves fell off of the trees when I wasn’t looking” …
“Wow, man, is it winter already? Where did the summer go, girl?” I wheezed at the dog. “Much less autumn? I guess the leaves fell off of the trees when I wasn’t looking” I whined. “Hey!” I yelped at Dharma, “Is that why they call it fall?”
Sure enough, Tuesday, December 21 marked the Winter Solstice—aka the shortest day of the year, accompanied by the longest night (I went to bed at 8 p.m.), immediately followed by the days growing a little bit longer in minute increments. It’s kind of a tortoise/hare deal, but for those snow-lovers out there, I’m sure you’re in no rush to see winter beat a hasty retreat. After all, the old man just got here.
Curious to know just a bit more about Solstice, I asked Lady Google, who had this to say: “Many Christian Christmas traditions, such as bringing an evergreen into your home and placing lights on it, are pagan practices. The celebration of Solstice has been around for millennia and it can be helpful to see it as the beginning of the turn toward the light in order to make winter feel less difficult to manage. It acknowledges the dark but looks forward to the coming light.” I like that.
If you are indeed new to the neighborhood, I hope you weren’t disappointed by our somewhat soggy summer or lackluster fall foliage, but there’s always next year; that is, if you survive the next few months.
Don’t get me wrong, winter in the Upper Delaware River region is often downright gorgeous, and I love photographing it early on, when the snowfall is still magical, and pretty, and fun.
That said, new neighbors… drive slowly and safely (never attempt to pass a plow) with appropriate tires, please. Otherwise, you’ll wind up in a good old-fashioned country ditch. Or culvert. Or trench. Or creek. Or worse. Seriously, country driving during winter is an art form. “Forewarned is forearmed” as Barbara Fox was fond of saying.
Way back in the fall installment of “Welcome to the neighborhood,” I asked the great country prognosticator of all things winter, my precious woolly bear, what he (she?) predicted for the coming winter, and his (her?) colorful bands revealed this: “According to folklore, a wide orange band (like the worm I photographed last September) means a mild winter, and fuzzier-than-normal woolly caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.” Wide, Band and Fuzzy, Attorneys at Law.
“There you have it” I muttered aloud. “Straight from the folkloric ‘psychic of the woods.’” Yep, I just coined that; let’s see if it catches on.
For all of y’all new to the region and excited about what life in the mountains has to offer, fear not. There’s great sledding and ice skating in your neck of the woods, not to mention sipping hot chocolate by a warm crackling fire in your new home, as long as you’ve had your chimney swept (yes it’s an actual thing) and remembered to open (and close) the flue.
Oh, by the way, the weather is somewhat unpredictable here in the mountains due to something called a microclimate, which according to Wikipedia is a “local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas, often with a slight difference but sometimes with a substantial one.” In other words, your friend across town might say it’s snowing, but you see no evidence of that at home. The word “micro” may refer to areas as small as a few square feet or as large as many square miles. My wise, sage, life-in-the country advice? Look out the window before donning snow pants. Yes, they’re a thing.
Speaking of fun (hey, it’s subjective!) winter activities, the great Christmas Bird Count is upon us. You can join in the frivolity (through January 5) by visiting https://www.audubon.org and signing up to participate. If it’s anything like the Audubon “Great Backyard Bird Count,” which includes instructions like “Decide where you’ll watch birds” and “watch birds for fifteen minutes,” followed by “count all the birds you see,” hours of riveting entertainment await.
If it’s more you’re looking for, my best advice is to keep up with all things winter by subscribing to the award-winning River Reporter, of course. Aside from updates on winter activities, the entire staff at the paper (well, not me) all work tirelessly to keep you informed about local news, local sports and local entertainment in four counties, 60 communities and two states spanning the Delaware. “Hey” I barked at the dog. “Is that why it’s called the River Reporter?” Happy Holidays!
Fun Fact: “The Winter’s Tale” is a play by William Shakespeare and was originally published in 1623. Some critics consider it to be one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comic.
Sounds a lot like life at Camp Fox. IMHO.
Catch up with the previous installments in "Welcome to the neighborhood" with the links below.
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