Saturday, January 24, 2009

JANUARY THAW

Hooray! Here in southwestern Ohio, we’ve just had ourselves a genuine January Thaw. During the two days it lasted, temperatures along the riverbank climbed all the way to the 50-degree mark. Stalactite icicles, which for several weeks had fringed the cottage eaves like dragon’s teeth, began drip-drip-dripping on Thursday. By late afternoon they’d begun dropping, falling with a clatter onto the deck, shattering like broken crystal on the ground. Big patches of snow from the roof also kept sliding off—a sudden whoosh-spalt! Practically all the snow in the yard was gone by Friday afternoon—except for a few fist-size patches under the evergreens and tucked in the nooks of a pile of stones over against the southeast fence. Icy sheets in the drive had turned into puddles; there were miniature bogs in the yard, little remnants of standing water which had nowhere to drain and couldn’t soak into the soil because the earth beneath the temporarily-warmed surface was still frozen hard as a rock. The ice shelf along both sides of the river, however, managed to survive the heat—at least about half of it did. Throughout the two thaw days, I watched the center channel of open water gradually widen as the outermost edges of the white shelf—where the ice was thinnest—slowly melted back. The sun-filled days inspired the birds, prompting all manner of boisterous singing—cardinals, titmice, wrens and sparrows formed the core of the daylong chorus. The welcome mild weather inspired us, too, and we spent the first day sawing wood, cleaning up the yard, and sorting through the clutter of a small shed that’s going to get replaced this spring or summer, but for now simply acts as a junk magnet for everything we can stuff through its doors. January Thaws, like Indian Summer and Dogwood Winter, aren’t officially recognized or sanctioned as such by the professional weather folks—never mind that countrymen and those less concerned with scientific dogma have identified and appreciated these mid-winter warming interludes for centuries. The old timers may insist that a true January Thaw has to occur after the 20th…earlier doesn’t count, being just a continuation of those mild stutters we frequently experience between Christmas and Epiphany. No matter. We don’t have to have some TV talking head tell us when a January Thaw comes—just as we know how to revel in its brief warmth. Moreover, a January Thaw is all about hope and promise, a temporary loosening of winter’s icy bonds and a brief but encouraging glimpse of better days to come. As I write this the temperature is back down to 19 degrees. The sky is gray, and the air filled with flurries of new snow. But our January Thaw has again reminded us that time passes and seasons change.

6 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

That is a beautiful piece of writing - I have so enjoyed reading it that I have become a dedicated follower! I too have noticed that here in UK the birds begin to sing as soon as the sun comes out - and today our snowdrops are out! Can Spring be far away? Thanks for such an enjoyable read.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Thank you sincerely for your kind comments. I hope you find enjoyment in future pieces, as well. I appreciate each and every follower.

No snowdrops out here—just snowflakes. We'll have six more weeks of winter, if we're lucky; or it could stretch into eight or more. But I like winter, though spring is my hands-down favorite season. I love the singing birds and wildflowers, the greening woods, the scent of rebirth in the vernal air.

In a way, though, the next few weeks is one of longing, building anticipation, and slow unveiling that I wouldn't trade even if I could have spring here tomorrow. Good things are worth the waiting.

Jennifer Jilks said...

I love the photos.

We are in the middle of a January freeze. My son & girlfriend just took an amble down by the lake, and came in frozen! This, too, will pass...

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jennifer…

Thank you. And I'm glad you liked the photos.

Since I posted this morning, the temperature has hovered around the 20-degree Fahrenheit mark; tonight's low is predicted at 5-7 degrees. Our January Thaw is definitely over.

Ngaio said...

As I sit here on a hot summers day in Aotearoa (New Zealand),your beautiful `cold` pictures make me shiver . . Wonderful photography and thought provoking words - thank you for a glimpse into another world.
Imagine if you will ... a cloudless,brilliant blue sky, cicadas singing,the laughter of children playing outside, my 2 cats stretched out in a cool place and the heat starting to rise in a shimmering haze - thats my place at this moment ..

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Ngaio…

Well, I'm both amazed and pleased you'd find my "January Thaw" interesting—except it does sound rather hot there in NZ. I'm glad you could "cool off" by visiting our Ohio winter.