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Be Wise, Winterize!



October 07, 2013
Monday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska -
The other day, I found a couple of “wooly bears” on my driveway. So what does that mean?

Since one had a narrow orange band and the other had a wider one, I guess that would be like Puxatawny Phil, or Matanuska the Marmot around here, seeing and not seeing his shadow at the same time. Which when you consider all the flashbulbs that go off when Phil is rousted from his slumber, I’m surprised he sees anything for several weeks.

jpg Be Wise, Winterize!

Lepidoptera - Arctiidae - Pyrrharctia isabella caterpillar (woolly bear caterpillar)
Courtesy the Wikimedia Commons.
Photo By IronChris -- Commons is a freely licensed media file repository

But I digress.

All over the country, people apparently look to wooly bears as a harbinger of winter to come. Just like in some places they measure pig bladders or counts the rings around a Harvest Moon. Oddly enough, I have rarely noticed wooly bears before. I only noticed these two because they appeared to be “racing” across the driveway, in the same way that banana slugs race across our garden at about the same speed as either continental drift or government action.

To be truthful, you don’t usually notice things like wooly bears this time of the year in Ketchikan simply because the rainfall that pours down our driveways and byways in October washes them out to sea.

At any rate, the wooly bears reminded me that it is indeed time to “winterize.”

Now, for many normal people (herewith defined as people who don’t chose to live in Ketchikan during the “rainy season”), that means bringing in the deck furniture, oiling up the snow blower, weather stripping the windows and buying a lovely new (nonwaterproof) down jacket from LL Bean.

The biggest challenge they have is prepping for some cold and snow, maybe a blizzard or two and a frigid day at the local football stadium. A white Christmas, maybe a winter sleigh “drive” to Grandma’s house. You get the drill.

Of course winter in Ketchikan is a bit different, When “Wet-tober” rolls around everyone in Ketchikan scurries around just like the crew of a submarine when the captain hits the alarm and starts yelling “dive, dive, dive” into the hailing tube. Batten down the hatches, it’s gonna be a soggy ride.

Of course, we all joke that living in Ketchikan is like living underwater. “Raintober,” when we get more rain in the month than 95 percent of our fellow Americans get in one year, is the month in which that really isn’t a joke.

So what does that have to do with wooly bears, who are supposed to presage more traditional winter weather (snow and cold) of the type that we in the temperate rain forest only sporadically see?

Not much.

But it got me thinking about how we do “winterize” ourselves for the monsoon.

Tarp sales go up in the Fall and not because they are the method of choice for covering up that which needs covering up.

We all put our snow tires on because that is an iron clad guarantee that winter will bring little or no snow.

Some of us even buy snow blowers because that really puts the kibosh on White Christmases or any other white day between October and June.

Some of us simply fly the coop for warmer climes. The most effective way to “winterize” is to move your body from Ketchikan to Maui until May.

I have never had the kind of life to be able to “Snowbird” the season away like some folks. And to be honest, after living in Southern California in my college years, I tend to get bored with perfect weather all the time!

Natch, I am saying that as I sit in my rainforest home, staring out the window as the Revillagigedo “submarine’ submerges under another relentless “winter” rain storm.

Perfect weather would be nice right now.

Although to misinterpret Shakespeare, “our winter of discontent” kvetching about the current weather does need to taken with a grain of salt water because we did just have a summer for the ages.

Which, is to say, we actually had a summer. A summer that would have been recognized “as a summer” by people living in other areas.

In fact, this summer was so nice, so traditional, that it was as if all the residents of Ketchikan moved somewhere else, somewhere normal, for the summer. Hallelujah.

That happens, well, it pretty much happens NEVER around these here parts.

Anyway, back to the “Snowbirding.”

When Charlotte and I were first married, we would save up our vacation time and go somewhere nice for October. Not go somewhere “in” October. We would go somewhere “for” as much of October as we could. Somewhere warm or at least with something approximating an Indian Summer.

One year we spent nearly all of October in Europe. Yes, it did rain while we were in Paris. But October rain in Paris is sooooo much better than October rain in Ketchikan.

But with the coming of a child, especially one who is not a fan any cuisine that does not include “American Cheese,” we find ourselves spending most “Drenchtobers” within the friendly confines of home, staring at wooly bears surf down the driveway on the crest of another winter, dreaming of the Wet Christmas to come.  

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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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