We are experiencing our January thaw on the coast of Maine — I can remember this phenomenon every year that I’ve lived here. Less than a week ago, our temps were well below freezing; today, the temperature is 54℉.
I look out my big living room window, and the first thing I see is wind — or rather, the effects of the wind. Trees are tipping by 10 feet or more, and the flag is whipping around the pole, winding tight and then loosening again, like the tether ball we played as kids. Does anyone remember tether ball?
Along the horizon, dark gray rings the sky, but above us, the clouds are not so heavy. Occasionally, the sun breaks through, as the upper winds blow the veil apart, and even as I write, I can see thin blue stripes beginning to show. Perhaps the clouds will melt away.
Everywhere, I see bare trees — tangled branches intertwining on one tree, or between two trees. This view is so different from the one I see in summer — then, the branches are bright with green leaves, and the grass offers a more deeply-hued background. Now, our snow is melted away, and everywhere I see gravel and sand, from the road trucks, now covering the roads, sidewalks, and shoulders. Here, we have learned to mind what we plant next to the road — hardy plants survive while more delicate ones are smashed between the ground and the gravel. In addition, salt mixed in with the gravel, to keep the roads maneuverable, offers a different kind of danger to plants, including the grass that rims the roads.
Winter has a severe beauty here — not frilly and leafy and filled with tendrils, like the spring. Winter is stark and bare and seemingly alien, but within that barren landscape lies the promise of spring. The land sleeps; it dreams, perhaps, of the day of its own awakening to rising temperatures. Or maybe winter is just winter, and all anyone can do is survive until warmth returns. Whichever, beauty comes to me through the living room window, while I sit, warm and snuggled up in a blanket, writing these words.
And besides, winter is half over, already. I appreciate it while I can.