Tonight at 11:30 p.m., winter will officially arrive in Kansas. That moment is the winter solstice, the point at which, due to Earth’s tilt and orbit, the sun starts moving back north across the land toward its summer solstice on June 21. So this is the year’s shortest “day” in the northern hemisphere.
But the weather patterns always lag a phase behind these solstices, since it takes a long time for hemispheres to fully warm and cool. Kansas’ coldest winter weather is usually in late January, in the same way that summer’s hottest days are in July-August. Even so, we just got a taste of winter’s brutality in the year’s first blizzard. Parts of Kansas got 15 inches of snow, while elsewhere, rain and high winds prevailed. And like all winter storms, this one took its toll.
This morning I found a dead porcupine as the thaw started. After recent windchills in the minus-zero column, it’s not hard to see how an old or weak animal, caught in the open, could succumb to bitter weather. There comes a time when every animal makes its last track, and for the porcupine, a Barber county prairie was that place.
Ice melted from the animal’s hair, and the carcass would simply disappear there over time. Nothing else noted or cared. In the natural world, things live until they die. And the system keeps on running.