Anyone for Slytherin?
The anti-winter Muggles vs. the wizards & witches of snow
It's October 7, 2011, as I write this column for the December issue. It's 80 degrees outside, so I thought I'd do what any columnist would do on a day like today. Of course, write about snow.
Earlier this morning a weather forecaster predicted there would be several more days in a row just like the last few days: sunny, near 80 degrees, with gentle breezes. But like the curmudgeon who announces on Friday that it's only three days until Monday, a news anchor chided the smiling weatherman with, "We'll be thinking about October 7th's weather when winter garbages all over us."
I like that verb, "garbages." My spell checker scrawls a wriggly red line under it, refusing to recognize it as a word. It's an excellent action word in which the writer transposes a noun into a descriptive verb. My objection, as a cross-country skier, is that "winter" as a noun and "garbages" as a verb do not belong together.
This situation brings to mind the world of Harry Potter. (Please forgive this comparison, but it's been playing on my mind while my son repeatedly zaps me with the plastic wand that completes his Harry Potter Halloween costume. He's trying to transform me into a father who'll buy him a Nintendo Wii for his birthday.) We cross-country skiers (add snowshoers, ice skaters and ice climbers) are the wizards and witches of winter's magic, whereas the unfortunate, magicless others are the Muggles scurrying about in their grumbling hatred of winter.
Anti-winter Muggles react to the first snowflake of the year with shock and dread. They remind me of one of my cats who, whenever another cat paws along our deck on the other side of the family room window, puffs himself into a raccoon and howls bloody murder, as though he's never seen another cat before.
Here on this beautiful early October day, knowing this column will appear in the December issue, I can write "I told you so" even before the anti-winter Muggles commence with their caterwauling. They'll puff up in parkas, hide inside closets and refuse to go outside until the spring solstice arrives. The wizards and witches of winter, meanwhile, thin ourselves down in colorful, figure-formed clothing and ride the adventures of cold and snow. Even better, in our Harry Potter world, unless you consider the price tag of the Birkie's February registration fees, there really is no Voldemort.
Anti-winter Muggles don't like to interact with the wizards and witches of winter. Other than on Christmas day or while watching a Polar Express video, they don't want to believe in the magic of cold and snow. They'll look at us in denial of our existence, or if they admit to our existence they'll consider our magic ways the stuff of evil sorcery. They'd likely disown us should we befriend their children. And they probably wonder if we would sink or float if tied up in ropes and dropped into a lake,
It's hard witnessing all the anti-winter Muggles freaking out about impending cold and snow on this balmy October day with the first few leaves falling and the shopping mall Christmas displays up for only the past three months. But when the cold and snow hit, the low-pressure system causes the anti-winter Muggles to cocoon themselves inside their homes. The parks and forests become our Hogwarts, our castles where all the magic happens; where we wizards and winters school ourselves in the pleasures of snowy trails.
Somewhere out there this warm October 7th, in Chicago or Milwaukee or even in Door County, there are anti-winter Muggles breaking out their space heaters over the news that a dozen snowflakes fell somewhere in Saskatchewan. It can't be helped. Anti-winter Muggles are what they are. Powerless, unable to cope, easy prey to Dementors overtaking the Weather Channel. We wizards and witches of winter will have to act with our best Harry Potter spirit, to help the anti-winter Muggles survive even as they cringe at the thought of us. We must throw them some wicking Thinsulate, a gift certificate to Hayward's New Moon Ski Shop or Outdoor Ventures, and the best stocking stuffer of all: a two-year subscription to this magazine. I understand the publisher is working on interactive columnist photos. (Editor's note: Sure, when Muggles fly.)
As this time traveler returns from thoughts of the first snowfall and the December issue of Silent Sports back to balmy October 7, I donned my running shorts, sleeveless running shirt and minimalist running shoes. They appear so Muggle-ish. My son's still zapping me with his Harry Potter wand, but since I'm quickly running out of available column space, my comparisons of winter people and anti-winter people to the world of Harry Potter must come to an end.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got an overwhelming compulsion to go out and buy my son a Nintendo Wii.
Bruce Steinberg is a father, husband, lawyer and novelist in St. Charles, Illinois.
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