January thaw

Jan. 25, 2014 A windy, mild and sweetly melancholic day with scudding clouds from the southwest. Snow and ice are melting without man-made stimulants. Once again I'm rather surprised and pleased by how the light is brighter in late January than even just a couple of weeks before, and by the power of  even the winter sun to quickly heat us in sheltered places.  Our unheated but glassed-in sleeping porch, which faces the south, gets up to 75 even when it's 15 outside. We use the space to heat the adjoining bedroom by day.

We New Englanders could do a lot more with passive solar heating.  It's not as if we're that far north; we're at the latitude of Portugal.

One nice thing about aging is that while the cold itself is harder to take, especially the windy chill of Northeast coastal cities, you're ever more aware of how fast time goes -- it will be spring very soon. And while it has seemed recently that we're living on Hudson's Bay, actually we're much closer to the Gulf Stream.

In New England, more than in most places, we have the weather to help mark off sections of our lives, as an aide-memoire, and that's handy. Now we have the predictable "January thaw,'' which, though this one will be very brief, reminds us that our weather won't  really be paralyzed by the likes of "polar vortexes'' or other such Weather Channel monsters. By the way, California is having record heat and drought. And Alaska has been pretty warm for, well, Alaska.

Scientists differ on why the rise in temperatures associated with the "January thaw' ' tends to happen in late January rather than in early February, which would seem to make more sense.  In any case, I'm more vulnerable to the sadness from lack of light than from the cold. And the light is moving in the right direction.

comment via rwhitcomb51@gmail.com