Category Archives: Winter

Sleepy & out of it

The chest cold that I’ve had since November has managed to come back again, with a vengeance. I didn’t go back to the church after lunch, just stayed home and took a nap. And then later I took another nap. In spite of the naps, I was sleepy all day.

This has been a bad winter for illness; Ted at church has accurately described this winter as “the winter of mucus.” I heard that more than once this winter, the health clinics here in the city had to close their doors early because they had too many people to manage. Seems like everyone has a cold, and now a nasty version of the flu is going around.

Enough said. Time to go to bed.

Winter memory

This must have happened when I was in fourth or fifth grade; my older sister Jean would have been in sixth or seventh grade, and my younger sister Abby would have been a baby. We had all finished dinner, and we were sitting around the dinner table talking. We must have been talking about school and our teachers, because somehow we asked dad about the teachers he had had when he was a kid. (Mom didn’t get involved in this conversation; perhaps she was dealing with Abby.) Dad said he could only remember a few of his teachers. Jean and I said we could remember all of our teachers, and then we each proceeded to name them all. And I have a vivid memory of sitting there at one end of that dining room table thinking to myself, “How can Dad possibly forget his teachers? I’ll always remember my teachers.”

Here I am, now about the same age as Dad was at the time of that dinner table conversation. Can I remember all my elementary school teachers now? Here are the ones I can remember: Miss Sheehan (whom I didn’t like one bit), Mrs. Blanchard (whom I adored, and who read to us from the “Twilight Animal Series” books every day), Mr. Hoffman (whom I had two years in a row, and whom I liked, but who failed to teach me arithmetic). But who was my first grade teacher? was her name Mrs. Witcher? or was that my kindergarten teacher? — So much for always remembering all my elementary school teachers.

How old was I when I began to forget my teachers?

Spring watch

At 6:30 this morning, I was suddenly wide awake. This is unusual, because I always get up at seven on work days. But now the days are longer, and the sun rises early enough to make me think that it’s past the time when I should be awake and out of bed, which made me awaken with a start this morning thinking, Have I slept through the alarm? I looked at the clock and reassured myself that I had another half hour to sleep.

The temperature got up to 50 degrees today, warm enough to feel like spring. But it was dark and gloomy for most of the day, and even though we got rain instead of snow the sky had all the gloom of winter. February is always a difficult month in New England: the days start to get longer, we get occasional spells of warm weather, but you can’t get decent vegetables, it’s bound to snow again, and we’re still sunk in winter gloom. People talk about “spiritual practices,” but as a born and bred New Englander I mistrust “spiritual practices,” because I know the only thing that’s going to stand up to February is good old fashioned religious discipline: so I write every day whether I want to or not (and believe me, today I don’t want to), and I religiously take a long walk every day. With a little bit of discipline, I can ignore the winter gloominess and focus on the tiniest signs of spring, like the fact that I came awake a half an hour early this morning.


Today, at last, I saw a thin skin of ice on some protected parts of New Bedford harbor. A tiny stream trickles out of a culvert between the public access boat ramp and a marine construction yard on the Fairhaven side of the harbor, and where it entered the harbor I could see the thinnest skin of ice, broken up into tiny shards by the small waves that ruffled the surface of the water. Yesterday, when Carol and I were walking around that boat ramp, we saw no ice at all.

Thirty or forty gulls stood around on the parking lot for the boat ramp, mostly Ring-billed Gulls, with half a dozen yearling and third-year Herring Gulls. Most of the gulls just stood around under the cloudy sky, facing all different directions. One of the Herring Gulls picked idly at something green. An adult Ring-billed Gull thought about challenging the bigger, younger gull for whatever it was, took a few desultory steps towards the green thing, but turned away as soon as the Herring Gull looked at it. I walked over to see what the green thing might be — the gulls got out of my way very reluctantly — and discovered that it was one of several slices of honeydew melon, almost translucent from having been frozen, well-pecked, dirty, not at all appetizing.

Not that bad

A friend called today and said, “Well, I hear you’ve been having a real winter up there.” It certainly sounds that way on the news, with all the reports of snowstorms in New England. But so far I have found this to be a relatively mild winter here in New Bedford. The harbor hasn’t frozen at all this winter, except for one day when a little bit of ice formed in one or two tiny protected backwaters. And there have only been three of four days when ice or snow kept me from walking as far as usual: we have had snow, but always followed by a warm spell that melts all the snow away.

From my point of view, this winter feels milder than the last two winters. And it’s not just my point of view — the waterfowl agree. I have seen about half the number of wintering waterfowl on New Bedford harbor this year, probably because the birds are dispersed over the many inland waterways and ponds that aren’t frozen. Had this winter been as bad as the last two, I think I’d be seeing lots more waterfowl on the harbor.

Pigeons in winter

This afternoon, Carol and I took our usual walk along Route 6 across the harbor to Fairhaven. We talked about this and that, part of the ongoing conversation that people who have known each other for a long time have. The wind swept down from the north, picking up cold and dampness from the harbor; it cut right through my windbreaker; it was exhilirating but draining; Carol walked on the lee side of me, letting me act as a windbreak for her. “Boy, that wind is cold,” I said. And just then a pigeon came flying down towards where they all roost under the bridge, flaring its primary feathers as it rode the wind currents. I thought it was enjoying its ride on the stiff north breeze, and for that moment I thought that maybe the pigeons didn’t mind the cold and liked the stiff north wind.

But on the walk back, Carol pointed out dozens of pigeons roosting on a sheltered rooftop, where they could be out of the wind and warmed by the sun.

So much for winter

The latest news is that some scientists now believe the Arctic ice cap could be completely gone by 2013 (link). And the tropical disease chikungunya has appeared in Europe for the first time ever (link). Seems that in spite of the denials and unscientific pontifications of people like Rush Limbaugh and Georgie Bush, global climate change is real, and it’s happening all around us.

Today in New Bedford, after some snow and seasonal temperatures, the warm weather returned, with temperatures hitting 52 degrees F (11 C). A heavy rain squall has washed away most of the snow. Predictions are that high temperatures will range between 40 and 50 during the week ahead. All this matches the predictions for global warming in this region: snow during the “shoulder seasons” in early December and late spring, while the rest of the winter stays mild.

Right now, it’s 50 degrees and warm rain is pounding on my skylight. This is not the New England I grew up in. It’s kind of depressing.

I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas
‘Cause global warming’s put an end to snow….


This morning I had to drive the six blocks to work. It was gloomy, gray, rainy, and raw. When lunchtime rolled around, I was tired of sitting in the office staring at email and talking on the telephone, so I wanted to walk back home for lunch. But when I got outside, it was snowing.

Snow, I thought. Blah.

I decided that I had better drive the car back right then and put it in the parking garage, in case there was enough snow to make the roads slippery. So much for my lunchtime walk. I walked over to the car feeling low, and just as I arrived at the car a snowflake landed on the driver’s side window. It was huge, as snowflakes go, perhaps an eighth of an inch across. It was fluffy and fat and white, and I could clearly see its six outstretched arms.

Wow, I thought.

I got inside the car, and looked at the snowflake from the inside for a moment. It looked as if its crystalline structure was fantastically complex, but it was really too small for me to see clearly without a magnifying glass. Then I started the car and drove off to the parking garage, completely forgetting about the snowflake until now.

Just want to claw my eyes out….

In the church office today, Linda, the church secretary, mentioned that her allergies are bad.

“Mine too,” I said. “My eyes are itchy.”

“I know,” she said. “My eyes are really bad.”

“I just want to claw my eyes out,” I said. Which will sound disgusting, unless you too suffer from allergies in which case you’ll fully understand why I said that.

“Yup,” said Linda, “claw them out, put ’em in a glass of water, and rinse ’em off. That would be great. I’m using my eye drops all the time. I wonder what’s causing it, though. Usually when we get the first snow, that’s the end of allergies. But not this year.”

“Maybe mold?” I said. Mold is a huge problem in old buildings in New Bedford, because the climate is so damp. “Except that we live in a brand new building with no mold at all, and my eyes have been itching at home, too.”

“Well, I noticed a lot of the trees still have leaves on them,” said Linda.

“Leaf mold?” I said.

“I’ll bet that’s it,” she said.

“You know,” I said, “I thought I’ve had some kind of lingering cold for the past month, but I’ll bet it’s allergies. Itchy eyes, congestion,…”

“…Headaches, tired all the time, fuzzy thinking. Yup, sounds like allergies, doesn’t it?” Linda said. “We need a good cold snap to put an end to this.”

I’ve never had allergies in the winter before. This may be a small but unpleasant side effect of global climate change:– perhaps allergy sufferers will no longer be able to count on respite from allergies in the winter.