Sybbie crouches below the dragonfly shepherd’s hook planted firmly in the frozen ground on the ridge to the west, watching as the red-capped plastic bird feeder dangles in the chilly wind. Her whiskered expression shifts from concentration to hope, as if one of her winged quarries will simply drop from the breakfast buffet into her mouth. Fortunately, for the fat cardinal busily cherry-picking at the sunflower seeds, his hunger hasn’t distracted him from keeping an eye on the furry ground below. He eats his fill and flies off. Sybbie shrugs her shoulders, scouts out the prospects at the other feeding stations along that same western ridge, and sighs into the memory of dry food waiting in a warmer place by the kitchen stove. Friday’s 7” snowfall is now a melting shell of its former self, and I smile as Sybbie picks her way across the yard to the porch, making sure to place her paws exactly in the prints she made two days ago in her first attempt to dine al fresco. I open the screen door to let her in.
The entire scene takes place at the start of the third day of February, where we can almost see spring’s fingers curling onto the edge of our hope and grabbing hold, to pull itself up and over into our winter-weary souls. Last week, I stood in the middle of a polar vortex as the truck’s engine roared to life almost defiantly in the -28 degree air. Today, it’s supposed to get up to 51 degrees. Sybbie’s footprints will be harder to find by the time the sun goes down.
You’ve heard my position on complaining about the weather, so I’ll be brief: it’s not about us. I also know full well the joy of un-hunching our shoulders, after weeks of being locked into position against the cold, to relax into the first “no jacket needed” day of spring (I know people who would sacrifice limbs and almost children for that, though I’m grateful they don’t. A good change of season needs both to be fully enjoyed and appreciated). But in the end, nature will do as it pleases, and we’ll do it better if we relax into all of it as best we can. I watch the birds at the feeder, and Sybbie below it, for guidance. They work with it.
In the meantime, I glance at the weather app predictions on my phone, and trust that I have more than enough layers to put on and take off as the temperatures dictate. I don’t mind. I have plenty to keep my hands and brain busy if I choose to stay inside—there are journals to be bound, granola to make (a new recipe this just this morning: Dark Chocolate Ancho Chili Cinnamon, with toasted pumpkin seeds. See? You’ve forgotten the melting snow already). Two dear friends came over for cooking and lunch yesterday, and we walked down the path past the sweat lodge, taking a left into the meadow. We came across tracks in the snow and gave our best Animal Planet explanations about who made them. One thing we know—there’s a rabbit out there who is an Olympic-trained jumper. Such distance between each long-footed impression! The weight of my boots reminds me of my place in the Big Picture as I leave a trail of size 6.5 close-together tread marks in the snow. Even with the warmer temperatures this week, I suspect we haven’t seen the last of it, so I’ll keep those 6.5 size boots close to the front door for a while longer.
After our friends left, I meandered down to the bridge, and looked past the railings to see two elongated melted spots where the thin ice was giving way to the creek’s insistent movement. It was like peering down into a white-framed window, where an entirely different world was arranging itself and getting on with it. Barley audible, I watched as gallon after gallon of icy water rushed onward beneath the layer of unmarked snow-cover, enchanted. Branches from the black walnuts stretched across the banks trying to touch each other, and I hoped the warming trend this week wouldn't trick them into budding too soon. But hey, they’re trees and know far more than I do about such things.
I gave the scene one more achingly grateful gaze, and left them all to it. Rushing creek water, smart cardinals, and leaping meadow rabbits are all the signs of a longed-for spring I need today. It will come, and I’ll be ready.