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Wednesday, 20 October 2010


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A guy I knew who lived in North Pole AK (just outside of Fairbanks) said they have four seasons; June, July, August, and Winter.

On the good side, there's no mosquitoes at -20. And at -40, you can forget about Celsius and Fahrenheit, since they're equal at that reading. That's about it for the upside, though.

> I needed a few days to finish a Thackeray novel

I laughed. This kind of whimsy helps make this place essential. Bravo!

If you get fed up of blogging for a longer period, this one may come in handy: "I needed a few months to finish Proust's last novel."

After living in Arizona for years then moving to Wisconsin for 8 years, then back to Arizona, it is the same in Arizona except the opposite seasons. Summer is a dreadful season with excessive heat and humidity. You dare not spend too much time outdoors. Spring is a foreboding of the summer and fall is the time of looking for relief form the heat. At least here in the summer you can drive a couple of hours and be in cooler areas and if you miss the snow in the winter, 2 - 3 hours and you can play in the snow then come back to the warm temps again.

As someone living in eastern Canada, I feel your pain. Dull, grey winters and muddy springs.

Minnesota, of course, is a "fall" state as well. We've had a very nice one; in fact it isn't really over yet, this year. We haven't even had a frost yet (in the Twin Cities).

Since I appreciate the outdoors best through a few layers of glass anyway, the coldest days of winter aren't so bad. They're also bright and sunny, around here -- you can't have enough moisture in the air for clouds at those temperatures!

60°F in the daytime, 40°F at night - that's what we call a COLD winter around these parts! :)

Well we have one "season". Does sunny all the time count? :)

I've always said that you can put on more clothes to keep warm for winter, but there is a hard limit on how much clothes you can take off to keep cool in the heat.

The grass always being greener on the other side, I am inviting you to visit Guyana (I've already had many tastes of winter all over Canada and in the UK). I guarantee you will miss your winter in less than a week :)

From what you describe of Wisconsin, Mike, isn't it time the Governor sold the state back to the Sioux (or whoever was in John Wayne's way in that part of the world)? Budget deficit erased, moral high ground re-occupied, and you get to go live in Paris on your share of the loot.

Mind, you'd probably miss the mosquitoes. And storms. And bone-numbing cold ...

Hey Mike,

Don't know where you lived in NH or VT and for how long, but speaking from the standpoint of someone that lived in central VT for 18 years I can't think of a single winter season that I would describe as delightful! I vividly remember one day I was leaving work (about 4:30 p.m.) and it was -65 degrees wind chill; or the month of January where the temp finally broke zero for only 3 days (and they weren't consecutive days!); or one year somewhere around April 21st a good 'ole nor-easter dropped about 32" of snow on us. I could go on, but won't bore you. I know that Wisconsin probably gets some pretty bad weather in the winter (never lived there), but I'd bet Vermont's winters would hold its own against Wisconsin. I'm just sayin...

As one who enjoyed six years in Madison, I'll say that Michael's description of the seasons in (southern) Wisconsin is pretty much spot on, with one exception. He states that "the days are relentlessly gray..."

I grew up in Seattle, then went to college in So. Cal. - where of course one would expect it to be sunny virtually all the time. It was not until I moved to Wisconsin that I learned that there were places other than California where one could see the sun in the winter. I will admit, though, that grey, cold, windy winter days in the Upper Midwest feel particularly depressing. (In Seattle, one just expects it to be grey, which it is for >200 days a year.)

Back to what Michael got right: Spring-I always said that Spring in Madison was a two week transitional period between winter and summer. And Fall is indeed glorious; here in Minnesota as well, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Bring on the winter I say. It is far and away my favorite time to make photos here in Chicago. The wind I can do without...

Good to have you back after your "little reading break." A bit of research for your own novel?

I grew up in Wisconsin, and like you, never knew what spring really was until I moved east (New Jersey, about 40 miles west of NYC). Forsythia, azalea, dogwood - rarely or never saw these in Wisconsin. However, I beg to differ on winter. Here in suburban NYC, winter storms start as rain and turn to snow, or start as snow and turn to rain. The end result in either case is slush. Rarely do we see a pure, simple, straight "snow event." When locals say to me, "but isn't it cold in Wisconsin," I say, "yes, but the snow is light and fluffy, and the sky is blue." Here, it's gray and slush seems to come out of the sky. No wonder people around here hate winter!

Is 'leaf equinox' a TOP exclusive? I feel compelled to use that phrase now!

Pay no attention to what James B has to say - it might be like that in Eastern Canada, but not like that in Atlantic Canada! If you consider winter to be cold, and summer hot, then our summers and winters are about two weeks long. Each! The rest of the year is a prolonged period of temperatures slowly changing. At a quick guess I'd say our temperature swing from the coldest winter day to hottest summer day is only about 50 degrees C. As for our landscape, it's probably easiest to envision Maine, but with fewer people.

Reading that, I realize I've probably a lot of stereotypes about Canada - pretty, but moderate. (Or should that read pretty moderate?) Anyway, I hope you guys have fall weather that is just as wonderful as ours is!!

What about the novel. Have you been writing one, or have you just been reading one
best regards
Christen Hansen.

That was all beautifully put. I live in Oak Park, IL, which is part of the greater area known by all who live here as Chicagoland. As you know (Mike), all of the seasonality you described is applicable to Chicago.

With each passing year, I’ve become more appreciative and aware of the nature of the weather here. This year has provided an exceptionally lovely fall. Cool at night, crisp in the morning, warmer during the day. And there’s been sunshine 90% of the time or better. And yes, the Chicago winter is looming. When most of us will become refugees, as you so aptly described. Hiding from the either the biting cold and the icy patches that claim so many broken hips, or the filthy slush that soaks into your socks and harshes your mellow.

Oh yeah, and the shoveling. Heart attack season is almost here.

Mike, thank you for a perfect summing up of how the season work in the Midwest. I lived in Minnesota for 13 years and you totally nailed the experience. Nebraska is pretty much the same, only Fall lasts a little longer and Spring comes a bit sooner and is a bit muddier.

Now I have a URL I can send to my friends in the South and the Northeast to explain why Autumn is my favorite season!

(and, for reasons obvious to anyone who reads my blog, the cycle of the seasons really resonates with me today...)

After boot camp, I was stationed at Great Lakes ("Great Mistakes") naval base on Lake Michigan and I had an opportunity to experience a winter and a spring. I'll never forget the figid wind blowing in from the lake and how it penetrated my somewhat flimsy pea coat. It's a different caliber of cold compared to say New England (where I currently reside). And the spring stumbled in late, almost May, like a drunken sailor.

I once looked into the question of why "midsummer's eve" is celebrated at the solstice, the "beginning" of summer, and found that the name is attached to an old calendar division based on growing seasons. By that reckoning, summer began around May 1 (May Day) and ended around August 1, when autumn (Harvest) begins, so the solstice falls at midsummer. Autumn ends around Oct. 1 (All Saints Day). The winter solstice then marks the middle of winter, not the beginning. This only works for "four seasons" climates, of course.

The point is (finally) that I think the most glorious season in the north is the old agricultural autumn, beginning around August 1, ending around Halloween. I suspect there might be some hard-wired gene-based reason for this general appreciation of autumn -- autumn is the time the food arrives. Fruits are ripe, the grain is ready to be harvested, spring pigs can be butchered, etc.

I certainly agree with you about the gloominess of the northern winter, which is why I now live in California in the late fall and winter, and St. Paul in the summer...in fact, I'm in LA right now. It's raining, and has been for three days. No sign of the sun...


If you sell your Mercedes you will have enough money for food.

Rudi, Your cold winter day is what I call a perfect fall day. :D

Sounds like you and Mishael Morris should get together and move to (Arizona+Wisconsin)/2

"I certainly agree with you about the gloominess of the northern winter, which is why I now live in California in the late fall and winter, and St. Paul in the summer...in fact, I'm in LA right now. It's raining, and has been for three days. No sign of the sun..."

My old friend Phil Davis, he of BTZS, hated the Michigan winters, but his wife wouldn't let him leave because her sister lived a hundred miles farther north and the two of them would each drive fifty miles and meet for lunch in the middle. But Phil's revenge was three weeks in Cabo San Lucas in late January and early February, without which, he said, he would never have made it through the Michigan winters. I've half a mind to start following his lead.


Mike, Michigan only has two seasons.

Winter, and Road Construction.

The State Bird makes it's appearance towards the middle of March, and hangs around until mid-December when the snow and cold starts importing itself from Chicago and points west.

The State Bird? Oh - that's the orange "construction barrel".

Glad you finished your reading...

Thackeray novel: Vanity Furnace? Or would that be a fair bonfire?

Gilles Vigneault, one of Quebec's foremost poet-songwriters, has a splendid song whose refrain goes "mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver...": my country is not a country, but winter.
Although there might be a double-entendre somewhere in the woodshed.

Here in western Washington we have warm rain in summer and cold rain in winter but fall, ah yes, it's usually quite nice into October. Plenty of sunshine today and the temp is 60+F. By November the rain will start steady as north Pacific storms march in on a regular schedule and it is cool enough to set up the darkroom in out tiny apartment bathroom and start to work on a backlog of negatives, 35mm half frame no less!


Oh yes, I am a masochist, how did you know?

Winter, a "novel" way of describing the heat of hell, reversed.

If you don't have to shove nor drive in snow and slush to some form of employment, and don't have to dress young children in snowsuits, then it is probably OK.

Winter here in Southern Ontario is that which makes us strong, healthy and good-looking so we can face the the other three so-called less desirable seasons of the year.

Winter time is the best time of photography here for large format on this side of the earth. It is about 10-20C (50-68F) and is the temperature what the film developer like. Not the 29C tap water temperature which need ice cube. In summer, it is really hard to see as the salty sweat dripped into your eye under the dark cloth of a 4x5 (8x10 is a bit better as there is more air). Just to have to get out from the "warm" bed.

Hence, like winter a lot and not summer (which UK is the best). Probably not people in the Northern part of the Earth.

Hi Mike:

I live in western New York; we get your weather about two days later than you. I understand and sympathize with your gray skies observation. We don't have the extreme cold here often. Rather, we get freeze-thaw cycles. Ice on snow, snow on ice or just ice. Cold, white pure snow is much more attractive, even if it’s colder. As for Vermont: when visiting there, you’re on vacation. The world is always more beautiful under those conditions.

As David Dyer-Bennett pointed out, we get a lot of sunny winter days in Minnesota, perhaps more than dull, gray days. And though it gets cold here (though hardly ever -20 degrees any more in the Twin Cities) it is a dry cold and not nearly so penetrating, perhaps, as near a large body of water like Lake Michigan. Anyway, years ago, rather than try to hide from winter, I decided to meet it head on by taking up cross-country skiing, winter camping, and quinzee-building, and actually started to look forward to it.

"As for Vermont: when visiting there, you’re on vacation."

No, I lived there, for a short time, several lifetimes ago, on an old farm on a country road that ran parallel to the ridges, that is now lined with tract houses and immigrants from the cities and not at all like the place it once was.


Even after living for 15 years in Prince George BC, and born and raised in Yellowknife NWT (both in Canada for those not geographically inclined) before that, I have yet to come to terms with Winter. Our family remedy is to pay the 'northern tax', i.e. a flight every year or so to a south Pacific island. Not only does it make the post Christmas dreariness a bit easier to handle, I also get to point my camera at things green and blue, instead of gray and white.

Perhaps the severity of the winters is directly related to one's age and at a younger age winters are always more inviting, regardless of whether (sic) it's Vermont or Wisconsin.

Of course a good pair of snowshoes or skis go a long way toward making winters more inviting, and more eagerly anticipated rather than dreaded!


"Anyway, years ago, rather than try to hide from winter, I decided to meet it head on by taking up cross-country skiing, winter camping, and quinzee-building, and actually started to look forward to it."

Oddly enough, that's how I eventually had to handle the heat of Washington D.C. in the summertime. I just had to face it head on, so I started jogging at noon. The first time I did it I returned to the house sweating torrents, and proceeded to drink about two and a half gallons of water throughout the ensuing afternoon. But eventually I got used to it, and started to be able to handle the heat the rest of the time. Prior to that I found it nearly intolerable.

Reminds me that my little brother briefly had a Swedish girlfriend, who came to visit one summer. She arrived at night when it was cool, and then went from the air conditioned house to the air conditioned car--we'd gone downtown to some museum or something--and she got out of the car, walked about four steps and then paused, not moving. "Oh," she said, "oh." And then again, "Oh." Finally she said. "This is normal? Feels like oven." Then she walked a few more steps and stopped again. "This cannot be normal?" And the funny thing is, it wasn't even that hot--maybe 90, 92 or something, not nearly as bad as it can get.


Well, it's bright and sunny here in Buckinghamshire, England. It's lovely until you go outside and feel how fresh* it is. Should be good for long distance telephoto shots I have only just realised, now It's too late for me to go out.

I've just been on the phone to my firewood supplier and they should be able to deliver tomorrow. Just as well, I was getting worried about running out.

*The wind is bl$$dy cold.

I grew up in Northern Ireland and generally knew it was summer because the rain was warmer and it was dark from 11.30pm-3.00am instead of 3.30pm-9.00am. Or as I once said to my (Californian) wife, it's always sunny but the clouds are usually in the way.

An exaggeration, maybe, on the rainfall amounts, but it feels that way looking back on it.

I'm in Virginia now and mostly feel that it has a good balance of seasons. However I could use a few degrees less in the summer and when snow is even mentioned, you can't find so much as a slice of bread, drop of milk or an egg in the stores. Never mind that it's rare to be snowed in for more than 24 hours or so. Nobody can tell me why this is; perhaps the locals make lots and lots of french toast during snow days?

"when snow is even mentioned, you can't find so much as a slice of bread, drop of milk or an egg in the stores. Never mind that it's rare to be snowed in for more than 24 hours or so. Nobody can tell me why this is; perhaps the locals make lots and lots of french toast during snow days?"

That's funny. That happens here, too, even though the longest I've ever been inconvenienced because of snow is about 6 hours.

When I lived in Hanover, New Hampshire, the snow-removal capability of the locals was extraordinary. We once had 24 inches of snow in 12 hours and within a couple of hours of the time the snow stopped falling, not only all the roads but all the *sidewalks* were cleared. The only time they were defeated was once when it snowed heavily, immediately rained heavily, and then froze quickly. A foot or so of slush froze solid, locking cars into place on the roads and making many roads and sidewalks impassable. That one took about a day or a day and a half to clear, but that was an extraordinary situation. That one probably caused a lot of people to yearn for their French toast.


Hi Mike, As a fellow Wisconsinite (SP?) I agree of your assesment of our weather. I don't know if your proximity to Lake Michigan is similar to us, hard by the south shore of Lake Superior. When a shift of the wind off the lake can change a sunny 80 degree day to 40 and heavy fog in a mater of minutes....thus, "Colder by the Lake." But we do get the benifit of warmer weather in the winter. Only 10 below zero while the folks inland get 20 below.

Thanks! After reading this it reminded me to order the pallet of salt for the driveway de-icing operations and to make sure the snow blower, plow, and generator work.

I live in Central Pa and our winter is long, cold and gray.

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