A white January
Sometimes January can feel like the longest month, as it tends to be a quiet time of balancing out the excesses of the Christmas and New Years festivities. Usually I use the time to kickstart the new year by concentrating on my health, including having a dry or vegan January. Time slows down to a standstill, and boredom threatens to engulf me. Imagine then my delight when a few days after new year the temperatures dropped below -1 °C and it suddenly started to snow! I love snow, and having a proper winter fills me with joy. I leave Boomer the dog inside as he loathes long walks in the cold, and out I go on my own to enjoy this fantasy world that has sprung up around me.
A thin layer of white magic covered the ground, and the world was suddenly lighter. Although we are now going towards lighter times with the sun extending its stay above the horizon each day during the coming six months, we still have long nights in January. Night lasts from 4 pm until 9 am, and the extra light that snow reflects is much welcome. For many years now the winters have been dismal, with unseasonally warm temperatures making any snow that did fall melt almost as soon as it touched the ground. Instead of four proper seasons, we have had many winters of near constant rain, making them feel longer and darker than I remember my childhood winters to be. In fact studies have shown that with climate change the winters in the northern countries will become darker as clouds will cover the skies for longer periods of time in winter. Less sun will be visible, and long periods of more or less constant rain or drizzle is to be expected. I'm not at all looking forwards to that!
I suppose that for some people warmer winters are a bonus, but I've missed having four distinct seasons. I also worry about the long term impact of this changing of the seasons. Climate change brings with it all sorts of problems; some of which are quite invisible to the human eye. Conifers in northern climates for example may suffer. Seedlings fare better when they are protected from dry air and cold spring winds by a snow cover, and mature trees are more likely to fall in severe storms as the roots are less anchored in the ground when it is soft and wet than when frozen solid into the ground. Instead of snow and ice glittering in the sunshine, we will have longer periods of cloudy skies and torrential downpour. Climate change brings with it more storms too - studies have shown that since 1990 there has been a clear increase in frequency and intensity of storms compared to previous years. Perhaps we reached a tipping point and simply didn't notice it?
Two weeks into January a storm front appeared on the horizon as a polar vortex collapsed. Big dark clouds covered the horizon, and a cold wind blew in from the east. The grey light that the blanket of an evenly cloudy sky supplies disappeared, and instead the light transformed into long blue hours in the evening and at dawn.
It is more quiet here now, with the snow covered ground muffling any sounds. The wildlife creeps closer, and one morning I woke up to find a rabbit had skipped over my terrace at Humlegård. Luna the cat has stopped bringing in mice and I'm in two minds about it. Has she gotten the excessive mouse population under control or has she grown fat and lazy? She skips about in the snow with me as I walk between the houses, but she no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night to enjoy mouse hunting. Unlike more normal cats she doesn't kill the prey she brings to me as tribute, but lets them go alive and kicking for me to hunt down. I think I would have enjoyed her kindness more if I wasn't so fond of my sleep...
It snowed relentlessly for a week and my gardens turned into Narnia. I half expected a fawn to skip past me in the forrest, and snow fairies to sprinkle stardust in my hair. Then the storm abated and left in its wake a cold spell the likes of which I haven't seen since 2010, when there was about as much snow as there is today. This morning when I woke up to -23 °C and brilliant sunshine my heart skipped a beat with joy. I know this kind of weather is not to most peoples liking - but I do find it incredibly beautiful!
Happy January to you!