We’re having a lovely autumn here in Sussex. Nothing to compare to the autumn colors back where I came from, but it’s unfair to make that comparison, as there is nothing in this world as fetching as a New England Autumn. Still, it’s doing its best, with red, gold and orange hues mixed with deep shades of green contrasted against the crystal blue sky.
Sorry, but autumn always makes me wax eloquent, or try to.
The good thing about autumn here, as opposed to back in the States, is when the red, gold and orange leaves fall from the trees, the green will stay behind. For the most part, green is the color of winter (along with the grey sky, but I can deal with that) and I like it a lot more than the white of the frozen tundra I used to have to endure.
In my view, green is a perfectly acceptable color for winter. I imagine it is like living below the Mason Dixon line, where winter doesn’t always mean a visit from temperatures that are best left in the laboratory for experiments to discover how noble gasses behave under extreme conditions. White is nice, in its place, but green is glorious, especially when it means I don’t have to shovel my roof.
But this winter, after nine blustery, brooding and bracing but (largely) snow-free British winters, we are planning a mid-season trip back to my homeland to introduce ourselves to the newest member of my family. And there is a chance—a slight one, to be sure—that I may be momentarily captivated by the serene, snowy landscape that will certainly await us. I put myself in danger of falling prey to memories of ice skating on the mill pond, tobogganing down the hill in the Town Park and cups of cocoa with marshmallows to warm us as we return—toes tingling, cheeks glowing and noses running—to the warmth of a familiar kitchen. I am just as certain, however, that after a few days of it, I will remember all the reasons I grew to loath the weeks between mid-November and the beginning of April and long for a return to the green of a Sussex winter.
And, besides, ice skating is way over rated.
As I write this it's Halloween and unseasonably warm in Chicago, thank goodness. There's nothing worse than Trick or Treating in a gale force wind or torrential rain, both of which are perfectly normal for this time of year. Given what we are about to experience (ie. winter) , warmth at this time of year is bitter sweet for Chicagoans. We know that within a month, we could be plunged into sub zero temps, the likes of which most Brits could never imagine. I thought it was cold growing up in the north east of England, but apparently I didn't even know the meaning of cold.
As Mike mentioned, not only does it get cold, but it gets barren too. The leaves fall off most of the trees and everyone's lawns disappear. When I first moved here I couldn't believe the sight of once well-groomed gardens looking like nuclear fallout scenes for the entire winter.
Yes, the snow is pretty - for a while. But months and months of shoveling (we city swellers don't tend to own snow-blowers) and salting wear thin very quickly. The salt plays havoc with your shoe leather and hardwood floors, and dogs tend to have to wear dog booties to protect their paws. (There's going to be fun in the Expat household the first time we try to wrestle new dog into them, I predict.)
Downtown there's a free ice rink where yes, families have great fun - until the first signs of frostbite appear. Seriously. Our weather reporters constantly tell us how to spot and treat minor frostbite incidents, and parents are warned not to take children out unless absolutely necessary. Oh yes, (memories flooding back now) as parents of young children, you very quickly learn where the best and/or cheapest indoor play facilities are.
Oh and your nose hairs freeze too. A very strange sensation indeed!