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Outdoors: Long Winter

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Coggin explains hoping for a long winter.

When a tune runs continually through a person’s mind, we call in an earworm. But what about the spoken word? A line from a play or a stanza from a poem? I ask because as the glories of autumn fade into the reality of on-coming winter, a line from A Camper’s Prayer gets stuck in my head.

Former Interlochen Campers may remember reciting this during the Sunday Services held in Kresge each week…..and the line that is haunting me is “and the laughter of the sunny waves to brighten the cheerless spots of a long winter.”

There are cheerless spots in a long winter…..but I really really hope we have one. A long winter, that is. I remember when we had a short winter…and I’m guessing the fruit growers do too.

2012: a warm moist fall, little frost in the ground, more rain than snow, and then in March, the temperature rose into the 70s and, in some places, even the 80s.

So trees broke dormancy…buds and blossoms developed….and then in April, the temperatures plummeted. Not good. There essentially was no fruit harvested that year.

But there are countless, less obvious effects as well. For example, insects emerged early. So by May, when the songbirds migrated, warblers which had evolved to pass through the region just as the trees were dripping with newly hatched caterpillars, found nothing to eat. The caterpillars had already become moths or butterflies. And that is just one of countless examples of asynchrony. Nature depends on timing. When timing is off, it often does not end well.

The short winter of 2012 apparently did not do permanent damage, but what will happen if and when climate change-related weather weirdness continues? Will birds adapt? I worry.

But when the harsher winds of winter blow and I ponder these perplexities, at least I have the hills and the stately pines to remember.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.