Here in Maine, July is never too soon to think about winter. The thought arrived with the two cords of cut and split firewood dumped next to my driveway. It was still July, but we live in the climate zone called temperate, where it seems the cold is never too far away, waiting patiently for the seasons to change. The good part is that you always know “winter’s right over there,” at my woodpile. You think about cold every day and how to prepare for it and its effect on the people who live here. It may seem strange to someone from a more moderate climate, but we call it “coping.”

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

Where else but New England could you find someone like Chester Greenwood from the small college town of Farmington, who, at the age of 15, invented earmuffs. He created them to keep his ears warm while ice skating on the nearby lakes and ponds. None of that would have happened if Greenwood lived at a lower latitude, closer to the equator, where frozen ponds don’t last the season because the winters aren’t long or cold enough. That’s what is really nice about New England – the climate consists of four distinct seasons, five if you include stretch pants.

There is winter, spring, summer and fall, each requiring its own wardrobe, its own value system. In summer the living is easy – all you need are shorts and a T-shirt, sandals on your feet. In autumn it’s light sweaters or anything that looks like fleece; in winter it’s whatever you can pile on layer after layer over long underwear; and spring, you reverse and take off layer after layer until you are convinced that spring is only a rumor.

Think about it (or don’t, up to you). If you lived closer to the equator, in the tropical zone, for clothes you don’t need anything more than a large piece of cloth to wrap around the body. In India it’s called a sarong, in Burma it’s a longyi. Before Greenwood’s earmuffs came along there were woolen scarves to tie around your head and the roll-down knit hats like today.

Greenwood convinced his mother to sew some fur patches on both ends of a wire band and called them earmuffs. Word got around in Farmington and beyond; so much so that demand rose enough to the point where the young entrepreneur bought a building in downtown Farmington and there, in 1873, he began manufacturing his own earmuffs.

To this day the residents of Farmington celebrate Chester Greenwood Day on the first Saturday in December. Sponsored by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the special event features a parade down Main street, a teddy-bear-with-earmuffs scavenger hunt, a winter dip into a local pond and plenty of arts and crafts. And, of course, earmuffs. You need a season of cold to even think of the temperate zone. A cold winter is good for you, just ask the Puritans who settled here. Four seasons are better than two and nowhere are all four seasons so distinct than New England. I would say more but my ears are getting cold.

Comments are not available on this story.