Monday, November 11, 2013

Winter

Winter, from the Proto-Germanic wentruz meaning "bloody miserable", is a strange season for me to talk about. I don't feel qualified. It's not that we don't have them here in Tasmania, it's just that they're not particularly impressive, and it's difficult to spot any sort of clear start or end point.

When the difference between the record low temperature in the middle of summer and the corresponding record low in the middle of summer is a measly six degrees, what can one really say about one season compared to another? There's no first snow, not even a turning of the leaves; there will be an uncharacteristically cold day here or there, and the trees react in uncertain dribs and drabs to these sporadic cold snaps until at some point you realise all the leaves are gone. Lacking any climatic cues, I mentally delineate winter as using the public holiday wasteland between the Queen's Birthday in early June and Show Day in mid October. When it's cold and dark, and you can't even get a free day off work, truly the world is at its lowest ebb.

More than the weather, the primary characteristic of winter for me is the daylight. Tasmania is hardly the land of the midnight sun, or I guess in winter the midday moon, but winter is defined by getting up in the dark and going home in the dark, even if you have a pretty slipshod approach to business hours. I get a cosy enjoyment of this phenomenon for about a week as the days reach their shortest, the singular contentment of moving through the cold and the dark from one warm sanctuary to the next, after which I find myself wishing I could see the sun a little more and the drizzle lit up by street lights a little less (the yearning normally lasts until I actually seen the sun and remember that I am the kind of person who needs to wear sunscreen if going out at night when there's a full moon).

People further north in Australia (the kind of Australia that gets put in tourism campaigns) seem to regard Tasmania as some sort of sub-Antarctic permafrost, but that's only because most of their winters peak at maybe-don't-wear-shorts-today cold. It gets cold here in winter but only definitely-wear-a-hoodie cold, never someone-go-chip-the-icicles-off-the-dog cold. And considering any half canny Tasmanian wouldn't leave home without some sort of warm clothing even on a glorious day in the middle of summer thanks to our gloriously fickle climate, hoodie-cold is not noticeably cold at all.

I think I'd like to go through a proper winter at some point, if only to get a point of reference, but I bet the novelty of snow and proper turns into bloody hindering awkward inconvenience pretty quickly.

Next week's word will be "waste".

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