The All-Black Wooly Bear and Other Signs of Winter


Every year I watch the wooly bears. They say the more black on their bodies the harsher the winter to come. There’s no proof they know what they’re doing. There’s even evidence that they probably do not. I watch anyway. I watch to see how fat and wooly they are, what colors dominate their coats, when we start seeing them in the fall and when they disappear again for another year.

I also watch the squirrels. (Extra chubby and in a big hurry.) Scrutinize the hickory nuts. (Thick shells, plenty of them.) And the acorns. (Ditto.) I note the foliage. (Deeper color than usual, dropping quick.) And read the Farmer’s Almanac (Cold, stormy.) All looking for predictions of the impending season.

Sometimes the old wives’ tales match up with scientific models, sometimes they don’t. This year, for the most part, they do. The caterpillars agree with the squirrels who agree with the Hickory and Oak trees, which agree with the traditional forecasters at the Almanac who just so happen to be on the same page as the meteorologists at the Climate Prediction Center: it’s going to be a long, wet and snowy winter in our little corner of the midwest.

Both Almanacs predict snow by the end of this month. Normally we don’t see it until the end of next. Of course only time will tell what kind of winter we’ll really have, but it seems that for now everyone agrees it might just be the most wintery of winters we’ve had in several years. Between mild years and brutally cold ones with next to nothing in terms of snow, I almost think I might welcome a typical Michigan cold season, with all its blustering and blowing and blizzard-like darkness. If it’s going to be cold at least, perhaps, we can have a clean white blanket over the brown and dead. Yes, I almost think I wouldn’t mind it that way. Almost.