The weight of winter becomes more than I'm willing to bear cheerfully by the time February rolls around. No sun. No lushness. No warmth. The long dark begins in November, but is softened by Thanksgiving. The holiday demands of December provide significant distraction from days that are more night than anything. January, however, is one long road of dead world resting with no visible promise of life. Even the lengthening days provide little relief.
February is just too much - a last straw of endless gray days. It doesn't help knowing that March is next and always offers the relief of real spring. Too much is too much. The determined gratitude with which I color long winter days grows weaker and weaker. I grow more and more weary.
Weary of having to wear multiple layers of clothes to be outside. Weary of dark colors and heavy sweaters. Weary of shoes and socks. Weary of gray air and tired green and mud brown. Weary of winter viruses that steal what little energy I've managed to hang onto.
Weary of my own whiny weariness.
My life is in late winter mode as well. One chapter is closing. No longer lush and vital. It's more and more challenging to enjoy the quieter, less substantial, gifts the ending offers. I work hard to tame my impatience, to not wish the days away, to practice being my fullest and best self in the cold dark days of waiting. I refuse to hibernate or hide or distract. As much as I hate winter, I bow to its necessity and its lessons. I want to be fully awake and ripe when spring finally arrives.
Yesterday I walked in the park, by myself, for the first time in ages. It was a sunny day and I was thrilled to leave the house in two heavy layers rather than the three I've kept warm with all winter. I was even more thrilled halfway through to have to remove one of the layers because I got too warm. Maybe it wasn't quite that warm, but being in one layer was worth enduring the bit of nip keeping my pace brisk.
I had intended to do a short version of my usual route, but my feet had other ideas. I ended up walking the entire park, including a small side trail that calls to me every year at this time.
This is where the first violets show, and offer my first concrete evidence that winter won't last forever. That spring is arriving. Yesterday, there were no tiny white and purple blossoms showing through the dry dead blanket of last year's maple leaves. But there was an abundance of bright green, heart-shaped leaves from which the violets will unfold.
As I stood admiring them, checking for even one tiny bit of petal, I heard birdsong that was completely new to me. Complex, melodic, joyful. I never did pinpoint the source exactly, but decided it was most likely a song sparrow celebrating the warm sunshine with a brand new chorus. It's likely, as well, that this song was meant to attract a female. If I were a female sparrow, we'd be building the nest together right now.
Standing still, I became aware of movement in the branches directly over my head. A flock of yellow-crowned kinglets, like out-sized pussy willow catkins, flitted from cone to cone searching out food. A pair of thrushes leap-frogged across my line of sight, the distance between them never varying, engaged in a courtship dance of their own. I could hear the soft metallic buzz of a nuthatch calling in the distance, and an answering buzz even farther on. The clear carillon chirp of a robin - a single urgent note - hung in the air as crystalline as snow.
Spring is putting the final touches on her finery before she takes the helm from tired winter with her abundance of color and light and new life. The evidence may require some special care to find, but it's there. Spring is coming, no matter what I do or don't do, feel or don't feel. Just as winter will not be finished until it is. All I can do is keep my eyes and heart open. And celebrate with happy gratitude the reminders that the light always returns.
photo from Flickr