Last week was Winter Awareness Week in Minnesota. You may have been unaware because there was nothing of which to be aware. It was fall.

Some trees still clung to their leaves like worthless stock certificates in a market crash; the wind had a beak, but the sun had some heft. Then on Wednesday night a few flakes wafted down, scouts for the approaching invasion.

Surely I wasn't the only one who noted with quiet satisfaction how the great wheel of the seasons was beginning to turn again and lit his lawn on fire. It's not a long-term solution, but it lets them know this won't be easy.

But there will be more, and we must be Aware. Previously I have just endured winter, but now I will be in a crouched position with my head tilted to one side, awaiting information. The very model of Winter Awareness.

But what does that mean, exactly? The news release is helpful: "Staying warm outdoors, staying fire-safe indoors and staying on top of upcoming weather patterns requires planning and awareness."

Let me elaborate. To stay fire-safe indoors, confine your fires to the fireplace. Don't splash gasoline on a stack of newspapers in the middle of the room, especially if they are within six feet of the curtains. I cannot stress this enough. Six feet.

To stay warm outdoors, put on some clothes. I think that's what they mean. I ain't no Winter Awareness expert with no fancy degree from the University of La-De-Dah, but it seems to me that putting on lots of clothing is the key to having as many toes at the end of winter as you started with. Make sure you layer everything, except for thongs. Layered thongs make you walk like you have a bug down the back of your shirt.

You should also assemble an emergency kit for your car. What you need: a heat-trapping blanket developed for survival on Mars; shelf-stable meals for four; a collapsible shovel; a flare gun; a moose you can kill and crawl inside for warmth.

Anything else? Sure. Ask an old-timer who's been through a winter or two if you need more awareness. We're blessed with many retired folks who've seen it all and will give you the benefit of their experience. Give them a call; listen and learn.

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