Talk About Winter

That's all you can do about it, really.

What do we talk about when we talk about winter? By "we" I don't mean skiers, snowmobilers or folks who think winter is our finest season, snap on their snow shoes and scamper up that pick-ed knob called Lafayette - for fun. I do not refer to those hardy, patient souls who cut holes in the ice, then stare into them for hours moving a stick up and down - for fun. I don't mean members of the Century Club, who circumnavigate the deck of the Mount Washington Observatory without touching their hands to the floor, while the wind's blowing at least 100 miles an hour - for fun and glory. I'm talking about the rest of us. A woman from the deep south (Connecticut, I think) said to me: "I've lived in New Hampshire three years now, but I think I'm going to have to leave. I do not enjoy these New Hampshire winters."

Who does? Besides the aforementioned skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers, ice fishermen and circumnavigators.

The fella from away says: "What do you folks do in New Hampshire all winter."

The native replies: "Mostly we staht cahs."

Not entirely true. Sometimes we shovel. We also spend a good deal of time trying to stay warm. Many of us haul wood to keep the wood stove cranking. Wood warms you twice, the old saying goes. More like five or six times by the time you get it cut, limbed, lugged, split, stacked and in the stove.

What do we talk about when we talk about winter? The wood pile and how it's holding up. The weather and what horrors lie in store.

"Cold enough for ya?"

"Gettin' there," we say through two layers of breath-moistened wool wrapped neck to eyeball.

"How cold is it up your way?" we ask over the phone, having called specifically to ask this question.

"Colder than a grave digger's backside," we reply. (We don't actually say "backside.") Or, "Colder than a witch's ... lips." Or, "Colder than an ice cube in an Eskimo's daiquiri." Or "It's so cold, I set the pea soup too close to the window and it froze solid, so I sliced it for sandwiches."

We grouse about the cold and, at the same time, brag about our tolerance for it. "Cold weather don't bother Ezra," we say. "He's warm blooded. Twenty or 30 below he's been known to stretch out on his piazza sunbathing."

"Is that so?"

"Ayuh, wearing nothing but his skivvies."

"His skivvies?"

"Well, it might have been his bathing suit. Either way, it wa'n't pretty."

Snowless winters, we complain. Nothing more depressing than a winter without snow - gray, bleak and miserable. Snowless winters feel extra cold. Too much snow? That's no good either. We like a coating for Christmas - three fluffy inches would be perfect - but about 10 storms and six feet later (remember the winter of 2008?) we wonder, "Will it ever stop snowing?"

And the old-timer says, "Always has before."

What do we talk about when we talk about winter? We talk about bracing ourselves, buttoning up, hunkering down. We talk about surviving another one. And not now, but a month or two or three from now, when we talk about winter, we talk about spring. NH

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