We are experiencing a truly kindly spell of late December weather, if you are an old coot like me, and have grown less fond of cold with time.
Not that I can’t remember being young and hot, and walking with a girl I was trying not to fall in love with, (and failing), and being warm through and through, though it was so cold the snow on the road squeaked as we walked over it. Also I can remember being desperate for snow, for I was running a lunch-counter at a cross-country ski area. However those are memories, and the reality is the present, and the Christmas present was mildness for an old coot, this year
What was really remarkable was a finger of warmth that reached the tops of the hills where I lived, but not the valleys. Indeed it was 43° atop Mount Washington, at 6000 feet, and only 40° at sea-level at the coast at Portsmouth. It was 39° in the Merrimack River Valley at Manchester 40 miles to our east, and 38° close to the Connecticut River in Keene 40 miles to our west, while here temperatures spiked up to near 60°. (57° in Jaffrey, 7 miles to our west.)
You can dimly see the finger of warmth in this temperature map, poking up into south-central New Hampshire (and also all the way north to Burlington, Vermont):
On Christmas morning the sun came out and the breeze felt like April’s. Because we had the stoves going before the warmth came north, it was actually hot in the old house. I stepped out onto the porch and instantly remembered a Christmas back in my youth (1965?) when it was so mild I was running around outside flying a new toy helicopter barefoot. I dedcided to stay outside to enjoy the mildness, figuring it wouldn’t last, as a front had come through to bring us our sunshine and clearing.
Temperatures did drop a little, but not much, and I could do my chores without gloves or a jacket. My middle son was out with bird-watching gear, and announced by cell phone that a small gang of bluebirds, and a male and female cardinal, were by the house. I hurried, but didn’t see them, yet could hear them off in the distance, which seemed very evocative and symbolic of something just beyond my ken. (My son’s pictures:)
There was something so summery about bluebirds and cardinals being about on Christmas morning that I decided it must be my Christmas miracle this year, and a auspicious sign.
Then I sat back to wait for the cold to return, as it surely must. A warm wave in the winter is like the water drawing down on a beach; you know the water draws back further for the bigger waves. However though the cold has rushed down to chill western cities like Denver, it is taking its time coming east: (The first map shows our Christmas storm passing well north, with us on the southern mild side, and the second map shows two days later, with the east still spared the arctic air plunging into the west.) (Click to enlarge.)
The radar map shows snow along the battle lines between the cold west and the warm east:
This battle line could brew up some big storms, as it works its way east, before the cold air eventually engulfs the entire USA. However for the moment we get a pause, a time of peace. The wind has died and the winter sun shines. Bluebirds are about. Obviously it is time for a sonnet.
I awoke to how wonderfully fashioned
Is a winter day, though the low sun is weak.
Faintly flavored, as when tea is rationed
And one sips a thin cup, one should not speak
Or one may miss the taste. The breathless air
Is hushed; the sole birdsong is over a near
Hilltop, and is the scratchy cry of a rare
Christmas bluebird: Very faint; very clear.
I tell my noisy brain to be quiet.
I’m tired of its racket, and how it squints
At silence like bats in sunshine.
Speaks the silence. “See My fingerprints
On every bough; with each breath you draw
See it takes no thought to wander in My awe.”