If this were Punxsutawney, PA instead of Keene, NH, if it were February 2nd instead of December 15th, and if I were a groundhog instead of a human, we’d definitely be in for six more weeks of winter.

For the first time in days, the sun is out and shining brightly here in Keene, and with the sun come the shadows. As I walked the dog around Central Square this morning, I tried to snap a picture of the sun-drenched facade of the Cheshire County Courthouse. Back in October, I posted up-close pictures of the Courthouse, but I’ve long wanted to get a photo of the Courthouse juxtaposed with the steeple of the Methodist church further down on Court Street. Today from the vantage point of the island of green at the eye of the Central Square rotary, I snapped this picture of the Courthouse and Methodist Church, but what I didn’t notice until I got home was the huge impressive tree shadow that spreads over the street like a spiderweb. If I were a groundhog in Pennsylvania (or a groundhog anywhere, for that matter), I’d be taken aback if I popped my head above ground to spy a shadow of such looming immensity.

We’re in for far more than six more weeks of winter here in the newly frigid Northeast. Winter solstice, the official start of winter, isn’t until December 21, but Mother Nature is running ahead of schedule. Yesterday our daytime temperatures dipped to 20-something degrees with a brisk wind that made it feel notably colder; this morning my hands ached with cold as I waited for my body to acclimate to walking in the 17-degree chill. These temperatures are merely chilly by New Hampshire standards: 17 degrees feels like bikini weather compared to that day last February when the temperature hit 14 below. But since temperature is a relative phenomenon, a new chill feels colder than an accustomed freeze: it just might take my body until December 21st to acclimate to winter weather.

Winter solstice is the day when the northern hemisphere is tilted the farthest from the sun: the shortest day of the year. But because winter solstice is also the day when the sun shines at the greatest slant, it’s also the day of the longest shadows, a phenomenon marked at megalithic sites such as Stonehenge, Newgrange, and even New Hampshire’s own Mystery Hill.

Without traveling to England, Ireland, or even Pennsylvania, though, I can tell you what’s afoot: the sun is low, the shadows are long, and the wind is cool and getting colder. Like Bob Dylan said, you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows. Here in New Hampshire, the wind is blowing in winter, long months of it: the shadows are long and, for the next few days at least, growing.