The sun shone brilliantly off the snow this afternoon. Ice crystals glittered like multi-faceted diamonds – just in time for Valentine’s Day. Come Tuesday, February 14th, lovers can escort their sweethearts outdoors and offer diamonds too numerous to count. Unlimited diamonds. Diamonds galore. Gifts to carry forward in one’s mind and imagination for years to come.
Winter is waning. Wednesday’s negative-twenty degree temperatures notwithstanding, the days are lengthening and sun strengthening. In roughly twenty-eight days, the Canada geese will return home. Caught mid-step on route to the mailbox or leaving work at end-of-day, I’ll hear the geese. I’ll stop and cock my head listening. Was it the first goose of the season, I’ll wonder, or my imagination wishing them home? Could winter truly be over? When the Canada geese return, there’s no turning back the clock. The seasons turn. Winter must vacate in place of spring.
Today the sun shone brilliantly. I snowshoed in thirty-six degree temperatures. Inside my snowboots, my feet baked in wool socks. I unzipped the sides of my jacket allowing cold air to wash in as I trekked the half-mile across the open field. The yin-yang of a mid-February afternoon pulled at me. My body registered the sun’s increasing strength as a bitter, eighteen mile-per-hour wind did what it could to negate the sun’s effect.
But progress is underway. A pair of sharp tails flew up from the hawthorn shrubs as I approached. A hawk hunted overhead. This afternoon I caught sight of a blue jay straight-lining it into the north woodlot. The sun, although weak compared to what it will become, is forming a crust atop the snow. The sound of my snowshoes breaking through the crust was sometimes, but not with every step, followed by the after-echo of a cracking snowshelf.
When the geese return, the seasons will change rapidly. The ditches, now snow-filled, will rush with moving water. The air will be alive with the trills of the Sandhill cranes. Tree sap will begin to flow. Buds closed tightly all winter will swell visibly and burst open. Books of poetry will be set aside. My study of Thucydides and the Greek Peloponnesian war will take second seat to long walks after work. I will dream of iced tea and fresh lettuce salads. I will drag a lawn chair into the sheltered backyard, and flanked by receding snowdrifts, bask in the sun.
A brilliant Sunday in mid-February has reminded me that winter’s days are numbered. I think of this as I pause to capture the elm as it must remain for now.