Preparing for Christmas in a Changing Climate

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Fall has been lingering this year. Normally, cold weather in Boston starts at the beginning of November, and by “cold” I am thinking below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which I begin to consider locating my long Johns. The first (usually uneventful) snowfall tends to be between Thanksgiving and the start of December. Not this year.

I’ve heard people say how “lucky” we’ve been with the mild weather, but in my book if the weather is routinely 20-30 degrees different than the usual temperature not for a day or a week but for (so far) a month and a half, that has got to be a bad sign. It also means that I have had a hard time accepting that Christmas is really on the way. I keep forgetting to pick up the wreath I usually put on the inside of our main door (trees don’t work in a small apartment with a large cat).

 

Now as the high glaciers melt into green

Ocean water, rising, rising, now when we look up

Expecting the water to fall in flakes for hungry tongues,

Now the sky is grey and strangely warm.

 

Unseasonal, that’s what it is. The nights are long

Just as you might expect, but the air lacks crispness,

The blue of the afternoon sky lacks snap. I cannot say

I feel lucky. Even after nine feet of snow in Boston,

 

Which only finally melted six months ago, I fear

What might be coming: either ten feet this winter, or,

Possibly, none at all. Either way we lose. Already

Polar bears are drowning for lack of arctic ice.

 

Already small Pacific islands are losing ground

The way an old man loses hair: a little at a time,

Then all at once. It’s the opposite with the stores,

Switching the candy and hangings from one holiday

 

To the next overnight and at least three weeks early.

I cannot make that transition at all this year. So much

Worry about the Earth, not enough glad tidings.

Too much grey and drear, not enough merry and bright.

 

In the face of this, I force myself to find a small, green

Wreath for the inside of my door, to dangle small golden

Pigs—for abundance—a red bow to remind me to take

The bull by the horns and face the absence of winter

 

And the endless presence of winter, both living in me

As I move through the warming world feeling colder

Now than I ever felt as a child in a snow fort. Courage,

Says the angel in the branches. Embrace hope.

Daylight Savings Time, or, It’s Not Dark Yet, But It Soon Will Be

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There is a car that parks behind the bank next to my apartment building that has a strange bumper sticker that says, “It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there.” For months I have assumed that it was a cynical (and therefore accurate) commentary on the environmental mess we are in with climate change, superstorms, sea–level rise and what-have-you. All. The. Problems. (which our overbribed politicians ignore, deny and fail to lead on, of course).

Call me pessimistic, but I don’t see it getting better anytime soon. And it really needs to. But thinking about Daylight Savings Time made me Google the phrase and I discovered that it is actually the tagline for a Bob Dylan song that I have never heard (which is dark and cynical but more about human relationships than environmental disaster, apparently). Here is the final verse:

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I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m movin’ but I’m standin’ still
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet but it’s gettin’ there.

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In retrospect, I still think I was kind of right.

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Dylan, Bob. “It’s Not Dark Yet But It’s Gettin’ There.”