Notes on Late Winter

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Few things on earth are as overrated as snow. When Benjamin Franklin invented the snow-shovel in 1754, he immediately regretted it and retreated back to the hearth to warm his considerable haunches in front of his famous stove. As he noted in his Autobiography, “I blew it, dear friends.”

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Yet misconceptions persist. Contrary to popular myth, many snowflakes are alike—and even more damn boring than those which are different. The fact that Inuits survive in polar conditions has been a matter of necessity, not a sentimental choice. They don’t make a fuss about the subject, though it is true that they have sixteen different words for “anthropologist.”

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Climate change will offer no relief, either. Scientists predict that as Arctic ice melts and more moisture enters the atmosphere, many of us will be confronted by even more snow. Such is the effect of negative oscillation. There is no silver lining to global warming.

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Some enthusiasts argue that snow is low-carb, and that as a condiment or main course, it can be slimming. It will temper your halitosis and what’s more, studies show that pressing your face into a snowdrift at regular intervals will enhance wrinkle reduction.

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All true. But these effects are short term; none are sustainable. This question matters because winter can drag on, and on, and on. That is the crux of the problem.

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In “Notes on Late Winter,” a paper published by the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1665, there is an account of how Lord Brouncker and John Evelyn stuck icicles into their respective anuses and measured the time before the icicles eventually melted and went away.

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“It was a very slow affair,” they report. “Also quite bracing. These same effects were observed in repeated experiments.”

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Although many of us are less bold or hardy than our scientific forebears, we might recognize the feeling.

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When, oh when, will it go away?  

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The Author

Charles Holdefer is an American writer currently based in Brussels. He has published four novels, most recently “Back in the Game” (2012). His stories, essays and reviews have appeared in the New England Review, the North American Review, Slice and other magazines. More information about his work can be found at www.charlesholdefer.com

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