A week ago, I had spent a happy though short afternoon on the deck enjoying the last golden colors of a delightful autumn. Many of us commented to each other how nice the fall had been. Temperatures had been mild, colors were vivid and even the curmudgeonly oak leaves turned to deep burgundy rather than nut brown. Maybe, we rationalized, if we kept complimenting the fall, it would stay with us a little longer.
But as sure as All Souls Day follows All Hallows Eve, the midnight snow on the back deck forecast a change of season. As a native-born Wisconsinite, I understand we need the cold to prepare the land for the coming spring. I really do. Winter has a lot going for it: the holidays, snow skiing and ice fishing, snowmobiling, peppermint mocha, crackling fireplaces, and blue sky days dawning crisp and clear. All seasons are important in their place.
But what if, as in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, a winter season lasts and lasts and lasts? What if it overstays its welcome like an unwelcome guest? Not just adding a few extra weeks of cold weather, like this year, but even more. New England poet Robert Frost, seventy-five years before Mr. Martin, wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire,/Some say in ice." A world encased in ice and snow is just as silent as one scorched by fire. Frost ends his poem saying that destruction by ice "would suffice."
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind winter as a visitor, but this year it seems a little too eager. Sure, the gardens and house are winter-ready, but now I hear that 6-12-inches of snow are expected tomorrow just north of the city and, later in the week, the forecast predicts highs only in the 20s and lows in the teens -- January temperatures and conditions about two months early. Rather than looking forward to winter, the premature forecast brings a feeling of dread, and, as I look out over the walls of my Winterfell kingdom of the north, I am not sure why.