“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics” is a cliché. For the record, Mark Twain attributed it to Benjamin Disraeli, but the attribution is unverified and other plausible sources exist.
Pity the poor statistics: they aren’t lies, and they don’t lie, but like other facts they’re easy to manipulate. Compared to human memory, however, they’re rock-solid reliable. When someone tells me some particular summer was the driest ever, or the driest she can remember, I remember the summer it didn’t rain from June 1 to September 1 and the grass crunched under our feet — and I go looking for rainfall statistics to back me up.
Some people I know keep meticulous records of things like rainfall and temperature, the date of the last frost of spring and the first frost of fall. I am not one of those people. However, when I woke up one morning last week to the first ice disk of the season, I couldn’t help checking my ice disk file for the winter of 2014–2015.
Last November, I unmolded the season’s first ice disk on the 16th. The year before that it was the 13th, but I can’t tell you about the year before that because I didn’t get into ice disks until the middle of January.
All the same, I think I’m seeing some consistency here. I’ll go out on a limb and hypothesize that the first ice disk of the season generally arrives at my address in West Tisbury in the middle of November.
My photo for November 13, 2013, tells me that along with the ice disk we had a little snow. I had forgotten that.
This morning I donned longjohns for the first time this year. Now that the second ice disk of the season has arrived — and is still hanging in there at one in the afternoon — it’s clearly time to put flannel sheets on the bed and replace the screen insert in the storm door with its heavy winter version.
In 2014, it wasn’t till the very end of December that the cold hung around long enough for two ice disks to coexist. (Sunlight is tough on ice disks.) In 2013, however, I had a pair on the 21st of November. Not this year. I’m not ready to make any hypotheses about the average date of paired ice disks at this address. This morning, November 24, brought the second ice disk of the season, and if it lasts till tomorrow morning, I’ll be surprised.
I won’t put my winter lights up till the solstice — unless I get into serious procrastination mode, in case that’s as good an excuse as any to do it a little earlier — so by way of a preview here are some highlights from the winter of 2014–2015. I can’t help noticing that I was rhapsodizing about statistics around this time last year, on November 18 to be precise, so maybe this will turn out to be an annual thing.