February is the month of the year when you most appreciate sunshine.
On average we gain 2.5 minutes of sunshine each day of the month. With an added day this year due to the leap year it comes out to more than an hour and 12 minutes of additional sunshine each day from the beginning of the month to its end.
In addition, the winter sun is higher in the sky so that when it does shine, more of its life-giving warmth falls on us frigid fools who call northern climates home.
I was thinking of this as I was standing in my shirtsleeves chopping ice in my driveway on Sunday afternoon.
Like many people I took advantage of the brief thaw to try and clear away some of the glacier-like flows around my house. I realize that if I was more meticulous about clearing the snow from my driveway as the snow fell in the first place, I would have less glacial buildups. Driving around my neighborhood I see many houses that have clean and dry driveways without a patch of ice to be seen.
I also see many others like my own that are about 50/50, largely due to January’s near-constant snowfall. I will note that if I were to draw a Venn Diagram of overlapping circles containing the people with pristine winter driveways and the people with well-groomed summer lawns, the circles would be overlap by at least 90%. I give some margin because of the handful of snowbirds who are not around to catch every snowflake before it hits the ground.
There is a lot to be said for maintaining a clear driveway. The biggest advantage is safety. You can’t slip on icy patches that aren’t there. However, maintaining the effort to be clearing snow mid-storm just isn’t in my nature.
On the plus side, I have nearly perfected my penguin waddle walking method to avoid ending up head over tail in my front yard. For some reason I don’t bounce back up nearly as well as I did years ago. *** On Sunday afternoon, I had the opportunity to join some others in attending the 80th birthday party for Earl Finkler at Marilyn’s Fire Station.
Finkler is a regular contributor to The Star News and he and his dog Avu can be seen walking around town when the weather is cooperative. He is always quick to share a story of living and working in Barrow, Alaska, stargazing in the night sky or talking baseball.
As part of the party, each of those attending were invited to share their favorite winter memory. I shared the story of my first winter in Wisconsin in January 1996. I was living in the city of Greenwood in Clark County in an upstairs apartment that had no garage. I was working in Neillsville at the time and my wife was working in Abbotsford.
That January saw a dumping of more than a foot of snow just after New Year followed by weeks of an arctic blast that saw temperatures in the 20s and 30s below zero.
After my car froze up I got an engine block heater installed and ran an extension cord from our second floor apartment down to where we parked the cars. My wife’s car didn’t have a block heater so to make sure she could get to work on bitter cold days, I got up every few hours and drove her car around the city so that it never fully cooled off, at least that was the theory. To this day, I could probably drive around Greenwood blindfolded from the many trips I made that winter. It seems unreal that it was 24 years ago.
To this day, I judge all Wisconsin winters to that baseline year. I sometimes wonder if I made the right choice in not heading south after that winter. Those moments come as my car protests being started on a cold morning or my face and hands hurt from the cold.
Other times, like when you turn onto Hwy 102 heading into Rib Lake after a recent snowfall, you remember to be awed by how beautiful the area is in the wintertime.
Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.