Peterson: RIP winter; it looks like you’re a goner
It’s snowing as I write this. Which shouldn’t come as a shock because this is northern Illinois, and it is winter. The middle of it.
Really. Just try to disregard the 63-degree high Tuesday, which broke the modern record for a high temperature on Jan. 29. Or the 50-degree weather we’ve been having. And the rainstorms, accompanied by lightning and thunder.
Or the fact that I have not shoveled the driveway once this winter. And today is Feb. 1, and according to my calculations – the 2011 blizzard notwithstanding – winter is a goner. It might get really cold for a night or two. But it won’t last. It might snow now and again. But it won’t stick around.
Because of deadlines, I have to write this before Friday, and Wednesday’s snowfall could amount to something. But not according to the weather map I just checked. It called for “light snow.” Light snow is an inch or two.
I’m not going to break this winter’s streak and shovel the driveway for an inch or two of snow. Three or four inches, maybe. That’s worth putting on the snow boots, coat, hat and gloves, and scraping the driveway clear.
I’m a fan of winter. I like cold weather – there’s nothing quite like a deep breath of 20-below air. I like one snowstorm after another – and the attendant shoveling. I like depth – seeing our yards covered with a good 2 feet of snow through the middle of March.
But we’ve been spoiled this winter. We went something like 300 days with a high temperature of at least 32 degrees. We haven’t had a decent snowstorm for what seems like almost two years.
And I’m getting used to it. I’m getting lazy. I’m feeling cold when the temperature hovers in the 20s. I’d rather not look for the shovel. I feel like I’m living in the temperate southern climes. And I’m not complaining.
This is the second anniversary of the Feb. 1-2 blizzard that was so severe that Woodstock had to call off its Groundhog Day celebration, where Woodstock Willie is coaxed from his den to determine whether there will be an early spring or six more weeks of winter. We didn’t need Woodstock Willie. We all knew we were going to be socked in for the long haul.
And for a couple of winters before that, we were getting a decent amount of snow from late November to mid-March, with plenty of subzero temperatures. It was nearly perfect. But for years before that break, we had miserable winters. Spotty snow. Spotty cold.
But now I’m counting on warm-side temperatures and dustings of snow.
I don’t particularly want to shovel anything. I feel like a grump.
It should have started snowing around Thanksgiving Day and continued through Christmas and Groundhog Day before gently tapering off. December and January should have been frigid, with weeks when the temperature didn’t get out of the single digits.
We would have gotten used to it. We would have gotten into a rhythm. Snow, shovel, take a short break, then snow and shovel some more. Cold weather, then colder. The 20s would be balmy. Northern Illinois isn’t exactly winter wonderland – you have to drive a couple of hours north for that – but it isn’t like snow deserts us. We’re just far enough north to enjoy it.
I was born in St. Paul, Minn., where 90 inches or 100 inches of snow is not uncommon. It would snow in October. It would snow in May. I grew up with a shovel in my right hand.
Chicago winters don’t compare. Forty years later, and all I can do is reminisce.
I don’t ski. I don’t own ice skates. And I abhor snowmobiles. But I love real winters.
But there’s no reminiscing this nonwinter. We’ve made it to February without more than a touch of snow – snow that I wasn’t touching, anyway. And the 20s aren’t balmy this year. They’re plainly frigid.
• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate, a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.