I wrote a column 21 years ago — in another decade, in another century — and found it in the middle of a snowstorm last week. Maybe it was the week before. Who knows? The snowstorms have blended.
It was about the “Februaries,” a word my daughter made up for what we were living through then and are living through now, snow and cold and wind and ice without end. “February is like the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ The same 24 hours are repeated again and again. Ice. Cold. Storm warnings. And more of the same.”
More of the same. That’s how it is again. More snow days. More shoveling. More boots left to dry on the rug by the back door. More wet mittens and hot chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches and why is everyone so hungry all the time, and if I don’t stop eating everything that’s not nailed down — even gross, stale, marshmallow Santas that tasted awful when they were new — come spring, not even my shoes will fit.
It’s the “come spring” part that is tripping me up these days. I think I’ve lost faith in spring.
People say, “Do you believe in God?” and I answer, “Yes, I do.”
“Do you believe in an afterlife?” And I say, “Yes, I believe in this, too.”
“Do you believe in angels and spirits and the dead who speak to us in so many ways?” And I say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
But spring? Despite a few semi-warmish days, I’m just not sure.
I know that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior and that spring has always arrived, sometimes early, sometimes late like my friend Brian Patton. But, just like Brian, it shows up bringing warmth and sunshine and always, always bedazzles you.
I know that I planted bulbs in the fall, tulips and daffodils. And I know that they are under the snow and in the ground and as eager as I am for sun-warmed earth. I wonder: Have they lost their faith, too? Do they think that they are buried under snow and ice forever?
I know that retailers are in business to make money and that they would not be pushing spring fashions if winter weren’t ever going to end. But I also know that these same retailers put out Halloween decorations in July, four months ahead of time. So by these calculations, winter could last until June.
I heard a bird this morning. My friend, Anne, would know what kind. It didn’t just chirp a winter lament; it sang a spring tune. It trilled. This should have reassured me, a bird heralding spring, but I’m convinced the bird was lost.
My cousin Jeannie, who I’m sure was a pioneer in another life (Yes, I believe in other lives, too), lives in a drafty old farmhouse in rural New York. Every morning, she springs out of her bed, bundles up in layers, pulls on her waterproof boots, and high steps it through 4 feet of snow to feed the chickens. And she laughs about this!
“Even at my age [she’s 60], I keep my ice skates in a bag in my car hoping to stumble upon some cleared ice,” she says. “I love winter.”
I am not making this up.
The secret to her happiness? Thermolite and Burt’s Bees for lips. And having the time inside to tackle inside projects, because “who wants to paint a ceiling when the grass is turning green and all those plants at the garden centers are waiting to be planted?”
Also, she says, she planted daffodils. In her kitchen. They’re in a big container near her window and the tender green shoots, already 2 inches, make her smile.
But then so does the forecast of more snow. “You have to be a mountain goat and have a running start to get over the mounds of snow,” she says, laughing.
The Februaries simply do not exist for her.
But they do for me.