Jack Frost pays a mid-winter visit

At last!

While we were sleeping and even the stars shivered, he finally came, bringing with him his brushes to paint an icy forest on the window.

Who? Jack Frost, of course. The artist has been waiting for the disgusting (to him) warm days and nights to end so he can get to work.

Every year his task is harder. Storm windows have mostly sealed those little cracks that allowed him to slip his brush into the house’s warmth, and his magic could begin. He will create, on what was a bare pane, a vista “of trees and flowers and vines and swirling leaves and frozen fountains until the whole pane is covered and the outdoors outside the window has disappeared.

Icy art

Once upon a time, uninsulated houses — who ever heard of insulation? — were galleries for his talent and children delighted in finding all the pictures. They had to hurry though, because once the furnace cranked up and the house warmed, the fairyland would melt away.

(This morning there was such a forest on my ill-fitting storm door and I was once again a child, standing in the kitchen in front of the open oven door to banish the night’s chill and to admire the artistry.)

Memory searches and finds an old but tried-and-true admonishment: “Never quit in the middle of the long haul.” As the years fly by we remember we’re all in the long haul whether we want to be or not and quitting is not an option.

(Have you noticed in all the political wrangling the combatants — excuse me, candidates — declare they are “in it for the long haul.” Do they have any idea how that admonishment came about and that it is as old as the old West and cattle drives?

Key to aging

Speaking of the years flying by, a friend, Marcia Melvin, — who in her profession has tamed my unruly hair — shared with me her thoughts on aging: “I am solely convinced there is only one way to find the key to happiness while aging. I’m not talking about asset interest. I’m referring to an interest that resembles a passion.

“As we age it seems too common that the ‘been there, done that’ syndrome becomes all too familiar. I’ve watched people who find a new interest, or embrace a lifelong interest, that seems to make them have a reason for living. I don’t think as we age, it is one of the easiest things to do, but it is certainly one of the most important ones.

“I hope as I age I can look at life as if I’ve never lived it, and I can find a zest for something just when I think it’s over and to live life to its fullest.”

Amen, Marcia.

Checking in

An unfamiliar voice on the telephone asked, “Are you dead? I didn’t get a Christmas card from you and neither did my cousin and I told her I would check to see if you were still alive.”

It was my long-ago friend from childhood, Betty Lou Johnston Smith. Remember the Johnston Hardware on Water and Main streets in Poland, which back then was a beautiful and typical small village in the ’30s?

Betty Lou and I walked to school together, played together (I envied her because she had a pony and high-top boots) and suffered through adolescence together. We went our separate ways and amazingly, have kept in touch. Betty Lou lives in Pittsburg, Texas and on March 14 will be 90.

She puts me to shame: on a recent birthday she got a new chain saw — she lives far off the main road in the woods — and when storms fell trees she cuts them up and drives her tractor to clear the way.

Her large family is planning a huge bash to celebrate the milestone. Hurrah for you, Betty Lou!

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Mahatma Gandhi

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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