BETWEEN THE LINES - Maybe winter isn't so bad after all...

Monday, December 3, 2001

I don't know what's getting into me. Here it is, cold and even a hint of slush on the windshield the other day, and I haven't gotten out my map to Key West yet.

Maybe it was the long, kind autumn that has numbed my deep-seeded hatred of all things wintery. Here it is, December, and the first snowman has yet to appear in the yard, the first snowball from my two Viking children has yet to strike the back of my neck, and yet, I am not apprehensive.

There is something about winter that I would miss, somehow, if I were lazing the season away on some tropical beach. Oddly, I've always identified snow with music. Some days it's Beethoven, some days it's Carlos Santana, some days a sweet, sad old riff of jazz, but I can't stand in the dark with those big flakes falling all around and not hear something in it.

The starkness of winter can cut through you like the cold cuts through the material of a sweater, but it also seems to bring out the best in people.

You could mark it on the calendar. The first day worthy of a shiver, our friends start marching in, dropping off checks for our Mr. Goodfellow program to help needy kids without coats, hats, gloves and


They make me smile, these good folks. Some of them have pretty threadbare coats themselves. Some I know darn well are on fixed incomes. Some know the feeling of having had to rely on someone's help in their own lives at some point.

They give all they can, a small army of them. There's no chill nature can hand out that can match the warmth of these people.

Scores more are on the phone, matching up with needy area families in our Adopt a Family For Christmas program. There are days when the adoptions go faster than we can get people onto the list. As soon as it gets cold, they start calling even before we can get the story into the paper.

Winter gets people out Christmas shopping, and they always seem even a bit more friendly. Tramping along Lake Avenue in the snow, trying to remember your wife's dress size or your little brother's favorite brand of shoes, even dreaded shopping seems to turn into an adventure, a little secret you and all these other people trying to shake off the cold have to share.

If ever I were not here, it couldn't be an official season for me. Not without the look on the little kids' faces as the come upon Santa Claus in his amazing castle. Not without that slow process of watching the lake turn to broken crystals and finally hard ice. Not without the first snow on my favorite massive evergreen in Chautauqua Park, and the icicles forming on the majestic Schaller Chapel over at BVU .

Along about February, I'm going to deny all of this of course, and would probably gladly trade in my winter weariness for that wonderful beach in my imagination.

But for now, I can't think of any place I would rather be this time of year than here, and I'm as ready as possible for the snow and the music it brings to one's soul.