Winter Wanes

By , February 1, 2017

Today is the first day of spring according to the old Celtic reckoning (see The Circle Turns Toward Spring). Most years, we mark this day with a certain amount of irony, claiming the birth of spring in the middle of wintry weather.

Not this year.

We’ve felt winter wane in the last few days. Yes, the temperatures have felt wintry, by Southeast Alaskan standards. No, we aren’t in the middle of a wet, warm thaw as we’ve experienced in more recent years (see Where Did Winter Go?). This year, the promise of spring has come in the most pleasant way possible: with sunshine.

I try periodically to express adequately the dramatic difference between sunny days and cloudy days here. Between those efforts, I do my best to downplay that same difference, if not to you, the reader, than to myself. We strive to avoid characterizing weather in judgmental terms: “good” weather, “bad” weather. We like so say, “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing choices.”

And yet, clear days allow us to appreciate our surroundings more fully. It opens to us the vastness of space in the moon (waxing to the first quarter at the moment, so relatively insignificant presently) the stars, and, in these last few nights, the aurora borealis. But, most especially, the sun.

We’re at the time of year when our latitude swings drastically from darkness to light. Within the last day or so we achieved the minor milestone of 8 hours of daylight. This progression becomes much harder to trace if it’s overcast. Since the last week or so has been sunny, we can sense the increase in daylight more easily, almost on a visceral level.

We are not alone in this. Note that tomorrow, Groundhog Day, focuses on a weather superstition that defies logic. The groundhog (a.k.a. woodchuck, whistle pig, marmot, et al—choose from the following: Groundhog Day, Alaska Style, Of Groundhogs and Grouse) “predicts” the weather for the following six weeks according to whether or not it sees its shadow. A shadow of rodent-frightening proportions requires a pretty sunny day, all things considered. So, the planetary weather hinges on whether or not February second is a sunny or not! The continuation of winter weather requires a sunny day! The mind boggles.

Whatever. The fact remains that, perhaps instinctually, we just feel better when the sun shines. So, we feel like spring is upon us at the moment. We catch ourselves going out in the yard without putting on a coat. Physically, it’s still winter. Mentally, it’s springtime in Alaska!

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