Well, we are nearing the end of January and outside my window the sun is trying desperately to peek through the blanket of clouds and I feel, at 45 degrees, at any minute this brown, damp landscape is going to erupt in colors of green and orange and pink and purples.
What a weird winter it has been. And when I say weird, I also mean a little wonderful.
But I’m wonderfully freaked out.
Remember last year? Remember the countless times we were snowed in? Remember my run in with the FedEx Man in a FedEx Van who, by the grace of Martha, I was able to pull out of my yard in order avoid an awkward afternoon of coffee in this little house in the middle of nowhere with a man who delivers my boots.
There were drifts that reached up over my head, which made driving into our yard feel like driving in the tunnel of a snow fort. I began contemplating purchasing cross country skis to give myself another option of getting around the ranch.
It was a damn winter wonderland.
But what we have this year people is a damn phenomenon and I’m not quite sure where I am and what they’ve done with winter , but it sure is keeping me on my toes.
I mean, there we were hunkered down after a stretch of sub, sub, zero temperatures only to wake up to rain and the smell of spring in the air. In another winter in another time this type of weather would send the snow melting in the coulees and me running to creek beds to float sticks and homemade boats.
But today the ice on the creek has melted just enough for the dogs to grab a lick, the banks brown and muddy,
red bare stems poking up from the ice,
orange berries dangling from twiggy branches,
golden dried wildflowers.
These are the colors of this North Dakota winter. And the feeling is all around poky.
And this is disarming to me, because it my mind, winter is supposed to be soft.
I am all out of sorts in this in-between, schizophrenic season. So yesterday while the boys were working on our new house, I skipped work and took a cross-country hike to momma’s on a full out search for any signs of winter. I needed to find something worth snuggling into, something that beckons me to come and lay down in it, something that sparkles.
But what I found was not what I was expecting really.
See as I followed the deer trails through the trees toward the creek, I tried to recall if I’ve ever been able to hike through these coulees so late in the winter. A walk this long through this much rise and fall in terrain last year would have induced near death huffing and puffing for sure, or at least a bloody nose. But yesterday, after leaning in to examine the thorns that stuck out from the blueberries bushes, the bare flowers, dried up and bending in the breeze without their petals, the dry grass that crackled as the wind pushed through its stems, something else caught my eye.
Under that dry grass, at the base of the oak trees, clinging to the rocks in the frozen creek was green, vivid, wonderful, lush, bright green. What is usually buried under a thick layer of white were remnants of a warmer season coated in the drizzle of this unusual January weather.
And the more I looked, the closer I got to the ground floor of my world, the more green I found. Soon I was stripping off my wool cap, untying my neckerchief, folding back the flaps on my mittens as the uncharacteristic color of winter transported me and I was convinced I was living in a warm May day.
Oh yes, the creek was still frozen on the top, the dogs spinning out as they chased after a squirrel who too, was awoken from his deep sleep by the warming up.
But underneath their furry paws the creek was following them, running too while it can run… on a green January day.
Oh, I could have stayed at the bottom of that creek bed nestled among the birch trees and towering oaks all afternoon, holding my wood cap in my hands and shoving my mittens in my pockets. The fallen oak leaves were a warm blanket covering the cool ground, the moss on the trees invited me to touch, the biting breeze was blocked by the deep banks the creek has cut and the trees who make those banks their home.
Oh, yes. I found soft.
I found soft on a snowless winter day where, on gifts of days like these, if you look close, under all that brown and red and orange, and frozen gray
the earth waits patiently for it’s chance to shine again.