Six Months of Winter Is Not a Thing

A month ago someone posted in the Madison subreddit asking if it was actually spring yet—”I’m new to the midwest and was thinking snow would stick to the ground until at least April or maybe early May.”

I replied:

I wouldn’t call it spring yet, but I think the notion that “Madison has 6 months of winter” is pretty misleading. If you’re coming from a warm climate it can seem like that, but once you get in the rhythm of living here it doesn’t really feel true.

IMO Madison has two months of Capital W Winter: January and February. The weather will be consistently cold and snowy in that time. What life is like here when the temperature is in the high 40’s is quite different from what life is like in those months, despite it still being “winter”.

Noah Kalina used the pandemic quarantine to take a photo of the same bend a river near his house every single day. You can view the full series here. How different this one place can look, even between consecutive days of the year is pretty astounding.

In his excellent newsletter from this week, Noah discusses his own observations of the seasons. Specifically, on which days a photograph actually looks like the season it was supposedly taken in. He points to a Kurt Vonnegut quote:

One sort of optional thing you might do is realize that there are six seasons instead of four. The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are depressed so much of the time. I mean, spring doesn’t feel like spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for autumn, and so on.

Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June. What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves? Next comes the season called Locking. November and December aren’t winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold!

What comes next? Not spring. ‘Unlocking’ comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They’re Unlocking.

I think “Locking” and “Unlocking” have a sort of harsh mechanical ring to them, and I’m not sure the traditional notion of seasons leads to depression, but otherwise I think Vonnegut is spot on!

The trees aren’t quite blooming, but the days are long, the weather has bursts of warmth, and the birds start waking you up in the morning.

Yes, winter can be unpleasant at times, but it certainly isn’t six months long!


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