No snow yet and temps continue their mild streak again this week. Perfect for taking long walks with puppy but snow – for Christmas – would be lovely. There’s still time of course, but a winter wonderland lends a seasonal framework for holiday cheer, snow lightly falling, Nat King Cole in the background singing of chestnuts and open fires, children sledding, their rosy cheeks and smiles as infectious as all get out, warm mugs of hot chocolate in hand and all that white beauty, well, it really does just do a body – and soul – a whole lot of good.

Precipitation is necessary, too, for Iowa crops next spring, for its rivers, streams and lakes, for trees and grasses, bushes and shrubs, tulips, crocuses, daffodils and luscious green hostas bordering April/May flower beds. The last several winters have produced little, and sometimes, NO snow. More and more, I’m hearing others echo my same concerns over this troubling lack of winter precipitation and warmer temperatures during the dormant months of December, January, February and March.

The climate here in central Iowa (and elsewhere) does appear to be shifting, changing, morphing into something other than what I’ve experienced – and loved – throughout my sixty-one years on this planet. Disclaimer: I adore each one of Iowa’s four seasons! However, extreme weather is another shared – and talked about – new phenomenon. This past year began most noticeably (following yet another above average warm, dry winter) with roller-coaster ups and downs of abnormal-for-the-time-of-year temperatures and precipitation.

April 2018 was frigid. May was HOT. Summer was a beast (delightful spring days skipped us entirely). Autumn, surely, would not disappoint. Oh, how I eagerly awaited those beautiful blue skies, colorful fall foliage and cool, crisp October afternoons.

Um, no.

It rained and rained and then rained some more. And it was COLD, not pleasantly, achingly refreshing cool and crisp but downright bitterly uncomfortable, windy, damp and miserable.

Who knows what the winter of 2018-2019 will bring? Right now – and at the moment I’m not really complaining, mind you – we’re enjoying some mid-December warmth and bright sunny days. I can’t help but wonder though if this isn’t a harbinger of what the next four months will be like. While I do like it now – today – it’s not what I want, like or expect of the most wonderful time of the year, let alone Old Man Winter.

Sigh.

Climate change? You really do have to wonder.

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This old sled was a Christmas gift from me to my son Wesley when he about ten years old. Shortly after the holidays, we were blanketed with a lovely snowfall and hardly able to contain our enthusiasm, my son and I headed to Pilot Knob State Park. It was a steady snowfall, no breeze whatsoever, a still and glorious backdrop to our efforts as we gleefully trudged up the steep hill that overlooks Dead Man’s Lake. This was a popular sledding spot that afforded a thrilling ride down a seemingly perpendicular drop and then a long skid across the ice of the frozen pond below.

I can still recall – with a huge smile on my face – the magic we both felt as we made our way to the crest of the hill. We had the place to ourselves and the anticipation was almost tangible. Finally, we made it to the top and as we dropped the sled, ready to course down the trail, reality rudely and abruptly brought us up short. The snow was a fine powder, clean, white and distinct – each and every one of those hundreds of thousands of uniquely magnificent flakes. Beautiful to behold but certainly not the right texture for sledding. Wesley’s brand spankin’ new sled was designed for hard-packed surfaces and as such, it dropped with a thud and was buried beneath that fluffy accumulation of winter precipitation. Wesley and I just looked at each other – and then we laughed. All our efforts to climb the hill, the huffing and puffing, the exertion required to carry ourselves and Wesley’s new sled all that way were for naught. It didn’t matter though because my son and I were together, sharing a wonderful moment and unbeknownst to us at the time, creating a powerful memory.

To this day, it still makes me smile.

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As winters go, we can’t really complain. January, bless her heart, was fairly mild. A few bone-chillers but lots of sunshiny days with temps in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Now February is upon us. Day One is perhaps suggestive of more still to come this winter. Mother Nature, most likely, isn’t quite done with us yet. Around the metro area here in central Iowa, we’re getting reports of nine, ten, eleven inches and more of this beautiful white stuff. The winds are starting to pick up and roads are slick with ice.

And so, it is a perfect day to hunker down indoors with a good book, a hook and a skein of yarn, a good movie. I’m scrutinizing the possibilities. Later, I’ll whip up a bubbly, fragrant, heart-warming pot of soup. I’m even contemplating another go at ciabatta bread with its heady, yeasty, tantalizing texture and amazing aroma. I’ve emptied the garbage, made the beds and folded laundry. Husband is painting the living room after an Oscar-worthy performance of clearing our driveway and sidewalks. I suspect he’ll be back at it again later in the day.

Let the winds howl and the snow fly. We’re comfy. We’re safe. We’re home. It’s all good.

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Farewell to fall and, depending on where one lives, hello to the beauty and bluster of winter. For some of us here in the Midwest, we’ve gotten an early taste of what perhaps awaits us in the long months ahead.

Autumn is my favorite time of year, chock full of warm and welcoming colors and that indescribable scent and weight and feel of the invigorating, crisp and, at times, brisk air. The inevitable cycle of the seasons dictates, however, that fall must give way to what comes next: snow, wind, ice and cold.

Enter the holiday season with all its pageantry, light, love, laughter and cherished traditions. Thanksgiving, that unique American celebration, replete with feasting, family, food and football, sets the tone for Christmas. More of the same and then some…

Childhood memories and nostalgia for what was (or perhaps that which we believe had once been) is a mighty force behind the potency of the Christmas holiday. We recall the eager anticipation and countdown of Santa’s arrival, the heady excitement of seeing the bounty beneath the tree come Christmas morning, the songs and carols that still make us smile, the red and green and gold and silver of holiday décor triggering a feeling of contentment unlike any other event of the calendar year.

The holiday season is upon us now, providing those of us in more frigid climes with a welcome distraction from the bitter wind-chills, icy roads and snowy driveways that winter promises to deliver in the weeks and months ahead. And yet, winter in December can be beautiful. Softly falling snow, the calm stillness of winter woods, frost on windows and the delighted cries of children playing outdoors, rosy cheeks and colorful caps, scarves and mittens to keep them warm.

Perspective is everything and I, for one, choose to embrace this transition from fall to winter just as I did when I was a child: filled with starry-eyed wonder and an appreciation of the changing of the guard from one season to that which follows.