When you log in to the Blogspot website, your own personal "Dashboard" pops up, displaying a variety of information specific to your set of postings--helpful and interesting facts such as when you last published (gulp...yep, I've been slacking, better get right on that...), how many views each piece has gotten (thanks!), and the total number of entries you've made, since the time you set up your site. So I know, for instance, that today's modest little offering...represents Post Number 700. Whoa! That's a lotta babbling...stream-of-consciousness...made-up words...and inventive punctuation, folks.
Now I feel pressure, a...weight of expectation, if you will...to impart something profound and insightful...to maybe sum up the past 6-1/2 years-ish of my experiences as an online writer...to put the whole thing into some kind of context and come up with, I don't know, "the meaning of life...so far"...or whatever. But then I decided, "Eh, I'm just going to do what I always do"--share my thoughts about what's going on right now in my little sphere of influence...the top story as it appears in the world of Team WestEnders. And this just happens to be: The Weather. (How's THAT for a buildup?Aannnnd...kablooey bursts the balloon of anticipation...sorry!)
Anyway, meteorologically speaking, one thing that made North Carolina so appealing to us as a potential relocation spot was the contrast between the Winters we were used to enduring in Maryland and the supposedly milder southern season. Naturally, I researched the topic and gathered as much data as I could before we made our decision. The most significant detail I uncovered was that, at least on paper, NC generally enjoys a shorter, less frigid Winter, with the coldest temperatures occurring in December and January. Even so, the charts made it look like overnight lows would give way to daytime highs that typically reach 50* or above.
I am thrilled to report that in practice, this has proven to be reliable intel. December provided many days that met or exceeded those parameters, much to the delight of my outdoorsy clan. However, the forecast currently warns that a blast of Arctic air is headed our way, ushering icy winds and plummeting thermometer readings with it. Furthermore, this catastrophic event (or at least that's how you'd be inclined to categorize it, based on the dramatic news coverage it's receiving) is supposed to linger and cause havoc...for all of ONE day, by the way. Jeez, I might even have to wear a coat...and gloves...when I go out tomorrow: Ooh, the monumental inconvenience. (I'm kidding! Stop making that face!)
One reason I mention all of this is that yesterday Facebook was awash with reports of the D.C. region's first school cancellations due to snowfall and accompanying slippery conditions. Lately I had actually been wondering if I would miss the fluffy white stuff, and the excitement of having a surprise day off...and the answer turned out to be a resounding he...ck, nooooooo! The shoveling, the piling on of layers to keep body parts even marginally warm, the drenched, ice-covered mounds of clothing that had to be dealt with every time the kids came in from playing...I'm happy not to have to deal with ANY of it. (Although they do build a couple of extra days into the academic calendar here as well, "just in case", and Derek pointed out that he'd like there to be enough...flurries? Freezing rain? Whatever they pass off as Winter precipitation....to use those freebies. I can get behind that...)
All of this leads me to point out some of the most obvious differences I've encountered in my first Chapel Hill Winter: first of all, it almost goes without saying that we can be active outside--comfortably, mind you--almost every day. Walking, running, hiking--the only time we have to take a break from these is when it happens to rain, unlike in the Mid-Atlantic when some years I felt like I was trapped indoors with a severe case of Cabin Fever for months on end due to the bone-piercing chill that I just couldn't tolerate. Speaking of which, I've found that--as I hoped--my overall mood is vastly improved by not having to cope with feeling frozen all the time. Seriously, I don't have the clinically-recognized Seasonal Affective Disorder or anything major like that, but just being able to go out, get some light and fresh air, and not be shivering miserably while doing so--it's HUGE.
Whereas most Januarys, when we pack away the Christmas decorations and the neighborhood lights start to come down, I feel a sense of almost-despair...like "the holidays are over, so all that's left is...months of dark and cold", I don't have that here. I used to go through a ritual where several times each and every day I'd microwave a mug of tea--because I like to drink it, sure, but also to hold onto the toasty ceramic and thaw my hands for at least a short while. These days I sometimes think, "Oh, I haven't had hot tea for a while...hmm, I wonder if it's too warm today for me to appreciate it?" (Nah...when in doubt, always go for the cozy cuppa...says the person whose fingers still manage to be colder-than-average much of the time!)
At this rate, the boys will be able to count the days they were forced by the unsympathetic mercury to actually concede to wearing long pants...on the fingers of one hand. (Which will no doubt make them gleeful at the scant number...I envision them doing a "happy no-pants dance"...yeah, that's almost a given...) As for me, I'm gonna shrug into my fleece-lined jacket, pull on my Thinsulate-reinforced gloves, and brave the stupid sub-zero atmosphere that Alaska or Canada or whatever goshforsaken tundra-land is gifting us with for the next 36-hours or so. Then if all goes well, it'll go right back to sweaters and bare hands (or, you know, "shorts" for the part-polar-bear-sons)...and a lovely cup of tea to toast to a kinder, gentler Winter.