Ready or not, winter has arrived. Meteorologists define winter as the three coldest months of the year--December, January and February.
Traditionally, winter begins around December 21, at the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. You can read more here.
Even older tradition calls the winter solstice midwinter, as it falls halfway through the darkest time of the year, between the cross-quarter days of Samhain and Imbolic. We know them today as Halloween and Ground Hog Day.
I like the idea of midwinter, as it means these are the shortest days right now, and after the solstice, each day brings a little more light.
This doesn't mean that winter is almost over! The snow and cold have barely begun, but the increasing light makes it easier to bear, to mentally prepare for winter, here. Chicago is known for its winters, and people in Chicago know winter, too. We use moisturizers-- and sunscreen! We know to dress in layers. We know about wind chills. We have boots with treads like Mars Rovers.
And we have stories. Snow Days of dazzling sun. Blizzards and white-out conditions. Waiting for the bus in 40-below winds. We are resilient, survivors. We look out for each other.
Which reminds me of a story of a friend of mine, from Alabama. It was her first winter at the University of Iowa and she came with a beautiful hand-knit sweater coat that her grandmother had made for her. It was space-dyed wool, multicolor with dark blue to go with her blue jeans. It had a hood and pockets. "I'm ready for winter!" she said. Yes, after we made a trip to the thrift store to find a big coat to go over it, she was ready.
What will this winter bring? What stories will we tell?