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December 19, 2013
‘The Fifth Season’ is about books and cheap cocoa

My editor, Dave Bern, and I generally get along pretty well. We’re radically different people—he likes bicycling, for example, while I personally prefer yoga—but we rarely have any real reason to disagree. Except where the weather is concerned.

See, to Dave, a good heavy snow storm means skiing, or snowshoeing, or all sorts of other possibilities for outdoor winter recreation. Myself, I’d rather just stay home and read a book. All snow means to me is that I will have to dig my car out of some snowbank somewhere, scrape a stubborn half-inch of ice from my windshield, and come up with new and inventive ways to unstick my door—which always, without fail, freezes shut—if I have any intention of going anywhere.

Most of the time I just stay home and read a book.

Recently, however, I discovered that Dave and I may have more in common on this particular front than I previously thought. See, Dave and I both believe in “The Fifth Season.”

In Kindergarten, we’re taught that the northern hemisphere typically experiences four seasons—spring, summer, fall and winter. But what they never tell you is that there is actually a distinct difference between The Holiday Season that comprises November and December, and The Fifth Season, or actual winter.

During The Holiday Season, even I like a little snow. It’s a necessary complement to Christmas lights, evergreen trees, and yes, even late-night reading sessions with hot chocolate and an imaginary fireplace with roasting chestnuts. The sheen of fresh-fallen Christmas snow is like fairy dust, a magic glitter that is the final and surest indicator that the Great Elf himself is about to arrive. Also, Dave tells me it’s better for skiing.

Contrast that with what we see in January: smog-greyed snowbanks, endlessly slick roads and one-fourth to one-third as long as everyone agrees they ought to be. One short thaw, followed by days of single-digit temperatures will turn the fluffiest powder into a continuous vat of useless, if not hazardous, slush. Even skiers want nothing to do with the stuff.

I do recall that my mom, who is a Kindergarten teacher, used to insist that the heavier, later-season snow was better for making snowmen. Since Kindergarten teachers exhibit a kind of inexhaustible collective optimism, I suppose I can forgive them for the ongoing oversight in their curriculum. Most everyone else, however, is at least vaguely aware of the five-season system.

Ironically, it is perhaps the snow-haters like myself who are least impacted by the change of season the northern hemisphere will experience come Jan. 3. While the skiers and snowshoers, and perhaps even the Kindergarten teachers, will face the outdoor January gloom, book worms like myself will continue on with life as though nothing happened—beside, perhaps, a few additions to our personal libraries from North Pole Publishing, of course.

And there’s an upside: cocoa prices often drop right after Christmas.

Sorry, Dave. Looks like we snow-haters have The Fifth Season figured out.

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