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Winter: "I'm Just Your Father ..."

This morning I didn’t wake up to my alarm; I woke up alarmed. Long before the subtle, pleasant chimes emanating from my iPhone told me it was time to awaken and greet the new day, the day greeted me.

What woke me less than 23 hours (accounting for the hour we “lost” over the weekend) after so joyously celebrating another Daylight Saving Time (and let the record reflect, it’s “Saving,” not “Savings”) was the defiant sigh of a powerful, angry wind battering the side of the house. “Just a guess,” I thought to myself as I lay there, already frustrated about what would greet me when I got up, “winter’s back.”

Minutes later, as I stood on the front porch watching the dog perfectly execute her morning routine, her ears blown back by a 25-mph gust, I shivered as I swore (in expletives), and then swore (a vow) I’d never fall for this again.

“What is this?” you ask. “This” is the fallacy that when we get the first few days of warm(er) weather each year (and in the Upper Midwest, that means temperatures somewhere between 45 and 60), and as we see the mountains of snow turn to mole hills, we think we’re in the clear, that all is right with the world, and we’ll be playing tennis, mowing the lawn and setting the patio furniture in no time.

It happens every year, and every year, we get slapped in the face, once again realizing “this” was all a sick joke; one we fall for no matter how many times it’s played on us.

Two weeks ago, March entered the picture like the proverbial lamb. Check that, it wasn’t even that aggressive. I’d say it came in like a 16-year-old tiptoeing up the stairs after breaking curfew. Now, two weeks later, that 16-year-old has decided to rebel, slamming doors, leaving the milk out on the kitchen counter, arguing about how he's old enough to make his own decisions and wondering why you keep harping on him to get a job.

I blame myself. I’ve been through this so many times before. I get carried away in the hope of an early spring, thinking, “This year will be different.” But the hope – and for some, the expectation – of an early, mild beautiful Midwestern spring is about as rare as keeping a New Year’s resolution past February 1. (I saw that bag of M&Ms in the passenger seat of the car.)

I like winter. It brings snow and holidays. And with it comes sports and activities one can’t do during the warmer months. But as it ages each year, winter turns from the happy, fun parent who’s always ready to “have a catch” or take us out for ice cream, to the one who’s always trying to teach us a lesson; telling us to not “get too cocky,” or that if we don’t respect the process or listen to our elders, we’ll pay for it later.

We’re Icarus, flying too close to the Sun with the wax wings he and his father, Daedalus, DIYed to escape imprisonment by King Minos. And winter is Daedalus, that overbearing parent telling us, “I designed these things for you, and they’ll work. Just take it easy and be patient. We’re in this for the long haul, and it'll all be OK if you don’t push it too far.” But we didn’t listen, because we never do.

Every year, we rush to soak in those first true rays of sunlight that have been lying dormant since before Christmas. We get out our bikes and take walks and maybe even throw on a pair of shorts (assuming last year’s models still fit us, even after we broke our "lose 20 pounds" resolution within days of the calendar turning ’21).

I’d like to say I was duped this morning – as I stood woefully underdressed when the surprisingly cold (though I don’t know why) winter morning slapped my face and bare legs. “It’s not my fault!” I wanted to scream into the early morning darkness, feeling defied by a force that brought me to the brink of something, only to pull the rug out from under me with its wind and cold and threat of snow later today.

But that would be wrong, because winter – or in the larger picture, nature – doesn’t play tricks. It just does its thing, every minute of every day, letting, well, “itself” take its course. And while experience (along with things like science and tides and moons and stuff) tells us every year not to fly too close to the Sun during those first few warm days of late winter, we don’t listen.

And then, when winter returns for its brief (but sometimes jarring) encore, we get mad, like we didn’t know “this” (remember “This?”) was coming. We forget that today, March 15, winter isn’t back; it hasn't left, not officially for another week on the calendar, and from a “feels like” standpoint, maybe not for a month or more.

The question I ask myself is this: “When will I learn?” The answer: Never. I’ll never learn. Because every year, on that first warm, sunny day, when the wind doesn’t feel blustery but “breezy” and the warmth of the Sun convinces me – scams me – into thinking it’s warmer than it is, that’s the day when my mind and my body believe that this time, this year, today, it will be different.

And next time, just like this time, I’ll climb up into the rafters of the garage, grab my wax wings and fly straight toward the Sun.

© 2021 David R. Haznaw

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