Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland...

Last night, I, braving the crowds of crazed last-minute shoppers and glazed-over drivers, went to a Christmas concert in Hopkins. Celtic Christmas music swelling with dueling improv pianos, an Irish harp, a fiddle that went lickety-split, and an outstanding sax drowned out the typical pop racket that blares from mall speakers warbling about Santa Claus rock. Their Irish flair wholeheartedly dove into first Noels, ringing sleigh bells, little drummer boys, and a whole bunch of snowflakes. And then the lead female singer launched into a rollicking tune that had something to do with waiting for this long winter to go away.

“That’s ironic,” I thought, “seeing as today is only the first day of winter.”

Whoever invented our current calendar did not really have Minnesota in mind when they declared a season to begin on the so-called winter solstice. Multiple blizzards, a collapsed metrodome, temps dropping far below zero, and towering mounds of snow at every intersection so that I feel like I am driving in some sort of rat maze seem to indicate that the season has been around for a while. Yet, despite the fact that no one actually pays attention to it, “the first day of winter” is still faithfully declared in tiny print on December 21 on every calendar you can find in Barnes and Noble.

But not everywhere.

Since Papua New Guinea (PNG) is located in the southern hemisphere, yesterday was not actually the winter solstice. It was the summer solstice.

That means their current scenery looks more like this:
Photographer: June Hathersmith
Rather than this:
the woods near my house
Today, I checked the weather online for PNG’s capital city, Port Moresby; this next week is currently in the 80s to 90s, with a constant chance of rain and high humidity. Rather than having the four seasons of Minnesota (I count our one week of summer), PNG’s weather is divided into the rainy season (roughly Dec.–Mar.) and the not-so-rainy season (sometimes called “dry”). Some places can reach 200” of rain per year, while others defy its tropical reputation and may get as little 45”. Temperatures typically range from the 70s to 90s (and can dip cooler in the highlands), but due to its equatorial position, the humidity is nearly always present.

Sounds like a Minnesota summer to me.

And like my homeland of Minnesota, PNG is a land of extremes. Despite being considered a monsoon climate, the mountainous PNG also happens to be one of the few nations near the equator that gets snow.

Now, perhaps their snowfall is not quite in the proportions of our Minnesota blizzards, such as that one two weekends ago that had me blowing our house out with the infamous Snow Terminator 600.

But, hey, still it's snow!

Even if it is the summer solstice when we're singing about "walkin' in a winter wonderland."