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In defense of Elderly Gentleman Winter - Clay Wilson

I don't ordinarily write a column in response to a colleague's column.

Since we must work together on a daily basis, I generally want to avoid getting into a tit-for-tat battle of opinions with a fellow writer on the editorial page. Besides, I consider myself a pretty nice guy. I usually try to avoid conflict and confrontation, anyway.

But this time, I'll make an exception. This time, I feel like a friend has been wronged.

This time, it's personal.

I won't name names, but a certain columnist who has lately begun frequenting page 4A of this paper last week made an unprovoked and, in my opinion, unwarranted attack on winter.

Specifically, this writer expounded his distaste for the dark season in quite ungentle terms.

Although the main thrust of his diatribe seemed to be at daylight saving time, he also directed some of his ire at winter itself, which causes darkness to fall earlier.

"The dark hour rolls to shore with the destructive conviction of the Exxon Valdez," he wrote. He described the "winter doldrums" as a "near death condition – (in which) we find little Johnny licking an unflavored snow cone and begging his parents to let him ride the Slow Sad Train to Nowhereville."

I don't really know whence the bitterness toward winter revealed by these words springs. Perhaps it is because the writer is from Ohio, where I can only assume the winters are harsher than they are here.

Perhaps if I had awakened one morning to find my entire house buried under an overnight snowfall I would be bitter, too.

But being from the South, where winter generally manifests itself as a slightly cranky uncle rather than a mean, half-demented great-grandfather, I've always kind of liked winter.

There's something wonderful about being able to go into a warm, well-lighted room after even just a few minutes in the frostbitten air. There's something supremely comfortable about holding the cold at bay with a few blankets, delaying the inevitable shock of exposure to a winter morning.

Admittedly, the older I get (weep for me – I'm almost every bit of 30), the less I like extremely cold weather. When I was a kid, the colder the weather was, the better I liked it.

I remember going out on my grandmother's porch on the coldest day I ever recollect – the temperature reached something like seven degrees below zero – pouring some water on the concrete and then waiting to see how long it would take to freeze.

Now I'm perfectly content to admire the already-frozen water from the warmth of my apartment or office. Nature, I've decided, is perfectly capable of working its wonders without me being outside to witness them.

But I still like winter. I can't imagine living in one of those more tropical places where they don't have seasons. I have a sense of the naturalness of it: Summer must be counterbalanced by winter. Without the darkness, could we really appreciate the light?

Apparently my colleague thinks so. He feels so strongly about this that he is avowedly willing to subject himself to the unnatural radiation of a tanning bed.

But so be it. To each his own, different strokes for different folks, and so forth. My colleague can dislike winter to his heart's content.

But he can't disparage it publicly without having to reckon with me. Even nice guys have their limits.

Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at cwilson@henryherald.com.