Sunday, March 2, 2008

Winter Marches On

Winter feels eternal. There are days––the long days of February––when it seems our backs will break under the weight of her, that we simply can not go another day without losing our minds.

Growing up in Idaho winter seemed almost unendurable: the skies would never clear, the wind––a cold wind carried down through the mountains where it backed up in the narrow valley that is Pocatello––never stopped blowing. The two phosphorous plants west of town pumped putrid clouds of gas and steam into the air, all of which blanketed our city for days at a time. I still remember the stench of the clothes hanging in my closet after one of those heavily-polluted inversions, a bitter, sweet smell, like dust mixed with fertilizer.

Chicago was much the same, an endless string of days without release, of watching the Weather Channel and seeing enormous, spirit-crushing masses of arctic air moving down across Canada, on a mission, it seemed, to settle over the Great Lakes where it would hover for days––if we were lucky––but sometimes for weeks at a time. And the wind off the lake was the most terrible thing, carrying ice vapor which cut through everything, like sand or diamonds. I remember not ever feeling warm, except, perhaps, while sitting in a steaming tub.

I always said I wouldn't mind winter if it were broken up into bits, cold, snowy days divided by warm ones, with clear skies and bright sunshine so that climbing into a car that had sat all day wouldn't be so terrible. I don't mind the cold so long as there is snow along with it, but Idaho and Illinois had long dry days with only that arctic air and the wind. Always the wind. Never a balance, never the kind of winter I dreamed about. I didn't know such a place existed until we moved to Denver where winter is almost enjoyable. It snows and freezes but our weeks are punctuated by days of calm and melting light, and sometimes warmth. Our Spring comes early and lasts well into June as we undergo a continuous string of snow days followed by sun days.

We all knew it was coming, the snow after our sun, which accounts for the almost manic celebration in the park all day yesterday. Soccer teams were out, as were the newly formed baseball leagues. The skate park was filled with kids clad in shorts and tank tops, and some even went shirtless. And why shouldn't they? It was 76˚! The bicyclists were out at the lake, along with the roller-bladers and the moms and dads with their kids and dogs and an endless parade of strollers. Strollers are like geese and weevils, nuisances the rest of us must learn to navigate, even on beautiful days. People played Ultimate Frisbee long after the sun had set; I could hear them from my patio. And all of it was done with the knowledge that Sunday would not be a sun day but a snow day.

And so the snow came. By four this morning, when I let Duncan out, it had turned from a drizzle to actual flakes. At six when I officially got up it had decided to stick. And by eight, when Duncan went out for his morning romp, it had accumulated to several inches, covering the trees and ground with a thick, fluffy blanket that required boots and work just to walk through. It was a walk filled with long sighs, resigned head-shaking and heavy, snow-marching, but watching Duncan––who only yesterday had chased ants across the sidewalk––roll and leap and pounce and chase the snow with his snout, warmed my heart. He does not mind the weather the way people do. Each day of sun or snow is a gift to him and he enjoys them equally.
Ah, to have the heart of dog. There can be no finer thing.


lizh said...

Looks as though Duncan was having a blast!...We could all take a page from his book..each day truly IS a gift.

Lori said...

Hey, Curt, email me... my email is in the info column on the left side of my blog. I have something to tell you!!!!!