The sun is shining, a miracle it seems. The air is clear, the ocean deeply blue, its surface annoyed, all little tears, white caps. I think of an evening knitting at the Library, hearing someone say “wintry mix” and, before looking up from my own stitch counting, envisioning yarn, a soft wool, new, pure snow twisted with the vibrant colors of the day that is beyond my window.
Or the striking hues in the bands of snow and sand and sea we have been seeing along the curve of the east beach where the dunes are so frighteningly low, perhaps with a touch of red, ilex, the winter berries that shine where their feet are wet in spring, or Cardinal, the ever-present accent of a newly white winter day.
It was but a forecast, that “wintry mix,” someone reading aloud the direction of the night, the fate of the snow that had been falling when we had come into the warm building. When we left it was almost raining, the down side of a rising temperature we all knew would fall, again, leaving us with even more frozen slush.
It seems everyone who lives on a side road with any piece shaded from the blessing of winter, the lengthening sun, has called upon one word — luge — to best describe the worst of the segments they travel most.
Parts of Mansion have been a tunnel through hardened snow, our own narrow, icy, luge runs. The lower part, near the hard turn to the beach, where the drifts were the worst, the wide stretch of road that I know to be there is unimaginable. Still — dare I say it? — the turn to my house has not drifted badly, this year or last.
Now that the clocks have changed, we will lose every moment of the hard-gained mornings. The sun will be lingering into the evening but not rising until as late as it did just past the middle of January, before we fell into the constancy of winter, giving life to the old adages, all a variation on “the days get longer the cold gets stronger.”
This is the week of winter, technically not the last, and by”meteorological” definitions not even winter, that I do not want to end. Were it December, I would be in deep despair at the prospect of months to follow, but it is March and it is white by day and and moonlit by night and it is beautiful and I do not want it over any more than I want the shad blossoms to fall, or feel that out of place touch of fall breeze in August.
There are these times, finite but true, in every season that are perfect, when the sun shines on the new grass, or the last light illuminates a cover of snow, when the October sea is bluer than it could ever have been or ever will be, when the velvet air of a summer night caresses the skin, all of them moments I want the earth to slow, time to halt.
There is a wonderment in this cold winter of frozen harbors and ever-present snow. Last winter we had snow that fell and covered the fields and stayed in place for longer than I remembered it ever happening. This year, again, those blankets of snow that stayed for more than a blindingly bright morning before disappearing into the air that is our usual expectation.
This year what will likely stand as the last week of real winter feels a trick of Nature, new gentle snow upon fallen upon old settled snow. There was light in the sky after six, roof tops were still white at day's end, the few lamps that shone in windows glowed a warm gold; the scenes were of Christmas cards.
The last snowfall was oddest, lasting all day but never completely closing to my view the beautiful house on the rise above Mansion Beach, more than a quarter mile distant, and the wind never blew hard. There was nothing of a blizzard about it, nothing of a usual storm and despite the beauty there was something eerie, unsettling, about more than one snow without blasting wind. We went out, Autumn and I, tired of being housebound for the day, down the road, newly covered and not icily treacherous as it has been for so long. The road had not been plowed, the stretch up to the Mansion had not been traveled at all.
The sun is shining on a cold land, but the sun is shining and already the cotton batting snow on the blackberries behind my house is falling in clumps. A breeze came up, just enough to jostle snow from upper branches and clear the north facing roof of the big barn next door, a broad plane that catches little winter sun. It built a few little drifts and covered others left from previous storms, the ones so hardened deer walk on them, and Autumn sits upon them, Queen of the Hill.
This odd storm left snow on the south facing roof of the older part of my house, a thick white coat that remained in place a whole day and I worried I would have to somehow figure out how to scrape it all free before it froze into the gutter and did all those awful things we hear about happening on the mainland. The next morning it was reduced to a single triangle and I had only to knock ice from the insides of the downspouts.
Spring comes early this year, in the evening of March 20. There will be thawing soon enough, and mud, those things that lie between the cold and white and frozen beauty of winter and the glorious lifespring of April.
We are, after all New Englanders, getting through these harsh winters, with or without snow is not enough to earn us the spring, we must slough through mud as well.