Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
Winter is the longest season. At least it feels that way. The cold temperatures drive us indoors. The long hours of darkness saps our energy. The deep snow turns a simple trip to the grocery store into a major undertaking. Towards mid-February, we are worn down, and frustrated.
But once in awhile, nature seems to sense our dark mood and sends us a gift. The winds shift to the south, the clouds break, and the thermometer rises to its highest point in months. It’s not a surprise; after all, Jim, Tim, and Tony have been talking about it for at least a week. But after endless cold and incessant snow, cynicism dies hard.
We wake up, instantly aware that the house seems warmer. As we eat breakfast, the sky is lighter. Actually, the days have been getting longer since December 21st, but somehow it’s evaded our notice.
The first moment of hope arrives when we step outside. The air, while still cold lacks its usual bite. Maybe we even go back inside and swap out the arctic gear for something lighter.
At work, everyone’s mood seems unaccountably brighter. Smiles bloom unbidden. The brittle acrimony seems to have been shelved, at least for now. Even customers seem to bring a little sunshine in with them.
All morning long, the sunlight beckons through the windows, teasing and seducing. When lunch time comes, we grab our brown bag and head for the park. Stepping outside, we feel it immediately. The air is soft, and for the first time in months, we feel on our shoulders the healing warmth of the sun.
Its nice to be outside. It’s too early for flowers and green grass, but everywhere you look, faces are beaming, like so many petunias. At the stroke of twelve, the church bells ring, and out of the newspaper offices the “Chuckles Club” emerges, taking their traditional, if too-long vacant spot flanking the Workin’ Man statue.
The day has a free and easy feel, but we still heed the discipline of the clock. Reluctantly, we head back inside.
Throughout the long afternoon, concentration is difficult. But eventually quittin’ time arrives. Heading to the car, the coat we wore earlier now hangs over our arm. The streets and sidewalks are wet from melted snow, and lo and behold, we actually see some grass here and there, brown and smashed though it is.
Arriving home, the sun is still up. After spending the day at work we don’t feel ready to go inside yet. Pausing just long enough to don some comfortable shoes, we hit the neighborhood sidewalks for an evening stroll. Other folks are out with their dogs, tails wagging ecstatically at an opportunity to leave the house for a while. Joggers who have forsaken the tiresome treadmill for the street pass by. Everyone we meet smiles a greeting. Those we know stop for a short chat. It seems like we haven’t seem them in forever.
The sky, as we look up is gauzed with high cirrus clouds. But as the sun dips towards the horizon, the ice crystals in those clouds catch the suns rays, reflecting and refracting into a glorious sunset of brilliant colors. As our gaze turns back to the east, we see some of the clouds have edges tinged with that same color, forming waves of gold across the sky. The sun touches, then dips below the horizon. The air turns cool – but not cold. To the east, a full moon rises through the thin clouds, gently laying its silvery luminescence on the land. The streets are darkening, yet we aren’t yet ready to give up this singular day. But hunger calls, so we turn for home.
Giving ourselves over to the evening chaos of dinner, homework, baths, and bedtimes, we have to wait until we retire before taking the time to reflect on the day. We revel in the renewed sense of life and hope that one beautiful, warm day has gifted us. We know that tomorrow will be different. It’s too early for spring just yet, and the weather forecast regretfully tells us that coming over the mountains is more cold air, gloomy skies, and yes, more snow.
But suddenly, we realize that we don’t mind as much. In the perfection of a February thaw, we feel our hope has been reborn.
And as our eyes close and slumbers take us away, we hear a soft whisper; Spring calls to us, saying…
“Take heart! I am on my way!”