By Buffy Calvert
Is winter going to be like fall? A quick season we’d better seize before it’s gone? After a green December and a January so warm lilies began to thrust up by my doorstep (“Keep down! Stay cool!” I shout, to no avail), I leave for a week’s visit with my son’s family in Mexico. Just before I go, we have a day or two in the 30’s and a light scrim of snow. “Don’t you dare have winter while I’m gone!” I beg. And return to find hard, frozen earth.
A few days later I sit at my desk, the sun warm on my face, the crystalline air dancing with tiny points of snow. Each day has sifted a new nap of fresh snow on the white velour blanket flung down over the weekend, smooth on the lawn, rumpled on the hillside woods behind the house, threadbare under the Norway Spruces.
That night a real snow from dusk to midnight leaves four inches of powder and finally covers the dark patches under the spruces. Children drag their sleds to the schoolyard hill, their voices clear and joyful in the frigid air. Temperatures have plunged to single digits and stay there. Skiers, sledders, and skaters are rejoicing. Peonies, which need 30 days below 30º to bloom, have a chance to thrive.
The full moon, like that in the Night Before Christmas, gives “a luster of midday to objects below,” and illumines the bone chilling late-night walk with my dog Chris. How good the house warmth feels! How welcoming the firelight’s glow! I celebrate this brief, ice-free, deep freeze of a winter.
Then Valentines Day shakes down a super abundance of delight. Out back, the stone wall, benches, and garden disappear under a thick meringue. My granddaughter, Emilie, calls from Quebec, where it is, of course, deeper and colder. We rejoice that winter has come at last.
After a Snow Day, no-place-to-go day, I creep out into the exhilarating air, greeting the rare passersby: the valiant shovelers and plowers, the blessed mailman, the at-last-we-have-snow-mobilers. Extreme weather breeds camaraderie among those who brave it together.
Sidewalks, between their carved, snow-blown walls, crunch under foot. Chris grabs mouthfuls as we trudge along, leaving curious scallops in the neat edges. The brook, already frozen over, is tucked in under cotton batting almost to the top of the banks. My cocked ear can’t catch even a faint susurration from its depths.
This igloo snow can be cut and stacked like concrete blocks. It tests the muscles of those who shovel driveways and paths after the plows go through. “Like cement,” grumbles one intrepid angel, clearing hydrants and opening the way for the housebound infirm.
We see rhododendron leaves, the best thermometers, curl into tight cigars and point straight down. Yet in the frigid air, we bask in a brilliant sun, dazzling to the eye, warm on the cheek. Somewhere, at the edges of our delight in winter, is the thought of spring. Perhaps one month is just about right! ~