I'm back. Sorry for the absence: I needed a few days to finish a Thackeray novel.
The new furnace and air conditioner are now installed. After paying the bill, I calculate I cannot spend any more money at all for approximately the next 27 years. I might buy some food. I say might.
A furnace is a necessary investment, however. Every season here in Wisconsin is about winter. Fall is the foreboding, the lead-up; summer, although it pretends to be winter's opposite, is really just a respite, and we all know it. And spring—in these parts a short and, curiously, not very pleasant season—is merely the arrival of relief, the always long-awaited relaxing of winter's grip.
Winter itself is not even very pleasant. The days are relentlessly gray and although it isn't always present by any means, you're always aware that a brutal cold threatens—every Midwesterner can tell tales of weeks at twenty below, when the wind can leech every trace of warmth out of anything it hits. I was surprised when I lived for a time in New Hampshire and Vermont to learn that winters there can be delightful. They're too long, like they are here, but they're snowy and pretty and not particularly windy. The sun shines. Vermont winters seem to invite you outdoors, or, conversely, encourage you to feel snug and cozy indoors. When you're indoors in the winter in Wisconsin you're aware that you're only a refugee, there for protection.
I never realized why people make a big deal about springtime—why poets sing of it—until I lived in Washington, D.C. In that area, the springtime is definitely the season of the year. It seems to begin in late February and unfold for months, with a succession of flowering plants taking their turns in glory and each passing week caressing the land with ever more delightful temperatures. Here, spring is just two weeks of mud before it gets hot. Every place has its best season.
Fall is unquestionably the best time of year in Wisconsin. Fall is lovely here. The earliest small signs of it arrive before we've seen the last of August—this year, cool weather arrived on the first of September, not a day late—and it progresses for months, and every stage of it is so beautiful you just want to bottle it and keep it forever. We've probably just passed the "leaf equinox," when there are more leaves on the ground than are left on the trees. The strange heat of Indian Summer has passed, and the nights are getting cold. Many days are a perfect "Wisconsin Warm"—60°F in the daytime, 40°F at night. The light is beautiful, the colors more so. Winter's on the way, but before it gets here, Wisconsin yields its best.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Bob Dales: "I grew up in Toronto and Montreal before the days of wind-chill, so winters weren't nearly so bad back then."