We’ve now entered that vast stretch of time post-holidays when the majority of winter still lies ahead and we have only the brief festivities of Valentine’s Day to break up the short, cold days.
As an antidote to the doldrums, last year I dubbed this season “Seed Catalog Season” — the time of year to pour through seed catalogs, dreaming of summer’s riotous colors, tastes and smells. It’s a reminder we won’t always have to swath every inch of our body in multiple layers of fabric simply to stay alive.
Because of the deep cold and intense blizzards that surrounded the holidays, the last week has actually felt balmy. It is absolutely true that after -20 F, +20 F seems like a heat wave. Weather that a few months ago would have seen us moaning in protest is now a cause for rejoicing.
The tall, well-packed drifts of snow the blizzards left behind have also been a boon, at least as far as the kids are concerned; the man of the ranch, who is still working on digging us out, might disagree.
One drift in particular, which climbs all the way to the top of the stacked round bales and then slopes gently out into the open prairie, has been a favorite spot for using the new Christmas sled.
“The drifts in the windbreak are good, too, but it’s a rough landing,” my son says, referring to the trees at the foot of the hills, and sounding so much like his dad I have to chuckle.
The snow is not good for building snow sculptures or forts, but nobody seems to mind. All week the kids have been playing outside, bright winter sunshine on their cheeks, happily screaming their way down an epic drift at top speed. In other words, as miserable and difficult as winter seemed two weeks ago, it is equally glorious now.
In one of his poems, the Austrian writer Rainer Maria Rilke espoused: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror./Just keep going. No feeling is final.” I think about those two lines a lot.
When my babies were newborns, they never slept more than an hour or two at a time. Many of those nights truly did feel like they would never end. And the same was true during the recent dark nights of December, when I was sicker than I’ve ever been and wondering if it would ever pass.
Now here we are, baptized by the snow, by the sparkling frost, by the sunshine that isn’t hot but still warms us somehow, into new life, just as the darkness was a different kind of baptism, creating the space for dawn to rise up on the western horizon.
Today, the temperature actually rose above freezing. The chickens are camped on the south side of the long, tin barn, where they can stand in the muck and warm their feathers with the reflected heat. The sheep in the corral do the same by the tin windbreaks, while the nearby horses nicker and swish their tails.
It will be bitter cold again before too long no doubt — for weeks that will turn into months, with no end in sight. We will wonder if it will ever get warm.
Then one day, just when we are about to give up hope, the sun will return, soothing the stems of the wind-burned grasses, and calling to the seeds buried in the soil, “Come out! Come out!” Calling me out as well, out of the house and down the road to where the wild things are running free and everyone is singing their spring song again. But maybe I won’t rush ahead to that just yet.
In between perusing the seed catalogs, maybe I will carve out time to watch the frost fall in sunlit patterns across the yard. I’ll rejoice in the woolly cocoon of blankets. When it’s too cold to spend much time outside, I’ll find a patch of morning light on the bed to rest in, for a moment or an hour.
No feeling is final, but they all have their season, and every one is precious.
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