Astronomically speaking, winter is somewhat of a subjective term, there being no officially or scientifically established beginning or middle, but I think it is pretty safe to say, "Baby, it's cold outside!"
Our Western calendar marks the beginning of winter on the solstice that usually occurs on Dec. 21.
In the Chinese lunar calendar, this date marks not the first day of winter, but the extreme of winter, so that as of Dec. 22, winter isn't beginning, it is ending. Personally, this makes sense to me, as the days are already growing longer, as the wobble in the earth's tilt towards the sun begins falling away from winter and towards spring.
Four astronomical events, two solstices and two equinoxes, separate our major seasons. The Chinese calendar also marks the major seasons, but it also describes intermediate seasons with names such as "rain water," which follows the start of spring, and "White Dew" and "Cold Dew," which fall just before and just after the autumn equinox, which is then followed by "Frost Descent" just before the start of actual winter.
Marking these intermediate seasons would do much more justice to the nuances of change that occur every day of the year in Park Rapids.
Four weeks ago we observed the winter solstice, which in the Chinese calendar begins the season of "Minor Cold" which is then followed by a season of "Major Cold."
In this manner of marking the seasons, the coldest week of the year is right on schedule. But that is okay, because in the lunar calendar the first day of spring is this year is Feb. 10, and that is just around the corner.
There is no better place than Park Rapids to observe the changing of the seasons, all 24 of them, and experience all the nuances, extremes, and subtleties that nature has to offer.
It is a place where you can actually feel the earth move under your feet. Every day is a new day. Every day is a new season. And they are all wonderful, except maybe the season the Chinese call "awakening of insects."
But as they say, if you don't like the weather, well, just wait a few minutes.
Alan J. Zemek is a Park Rapids area developer and author of "Generation Busted: How America Went Broke in the Age of Prosperity." You can follow his blog, or comment on this article on his website, www.genera tionbusted.com.