For the first time in a long time the sun is bright and the birds are chirping endlessly. They chirped before, even in the deep cold, but their song was muffled by a foot of snow on the ground and on the rooftops. They wouldn’t sing for long, and only of a morning as if they were wintering in cuckoo clocks whose tiny doors opened once a day, not once an hour.
Most of the snow melted off yesterday. I could feel the day itself shaking winter off like a bad feeling.
I love winter like I love banana crème pie. That first slice is stupendous – luxurious and heavenly, even. Every bite is as good as the next. I’m sure I want a second slice. As a child I would beg, plead, and assure the grownups I could finish a second slice.
Now I’m the grownup, but the dialogue hasn’t changed. I still think I can finish a second slice. The first bite of that second slice is okay, but the next bite after that is like winter in its final month. It leaves me feeling some kind of way, wanting something else entirely. I start to wonder what I thought was so great about winter.
Everything had been blanketed in thick, crisp, clean white. Every branch of every tree was delicately sculpted. Once hidden in a dark red carpet of leaves and the stubborn browns and grays of undergrowth and fallen branches, the forest floor was made delightfully visible and beckoning. Snow cover gave everything new depth and new texture. It was beautiful and romantic, truly a wonderland.
It took several months for wonder to give way, conceding a sort of closed-in feeling, not like an embrace, rather like being under water for one second too long. Chilled, dark mornings and cold, early nightfalls began to take their toll. No matter how long I was indoors, I still felt cold and my feet still felt wet. Everything smelled cold and wet, warmed up and dried out, but never dry enough.
I looked at the mats on the floor of our entrance and saw how dirty and salty they were, but they weren’t just dirty and salty. They were heavy with the ends of long winter days; days spent straining muscles to maintain balance on the ice, cleaning off the car, driving up the road that never gets plowed to the road that does, and walking to the house up the path that somehow became longer and longer each time.
No matter. Yesterday was the first chance to let in what felt like Spring. So what that it’s not Spring. The birds and the sky and the sun thought it was; who was I to argue. We rolled up every rolladens, pulled back every shade, and opened all the windows. The sun barreled in, the cool but not cold air rolled across the floors and marched up the walls, and the sound of the birds filled each room one at a time.
We shook the doormats until they were no longer weighted down with weariness. We mopped and dusted and did the windows. The windows – the one thing no one wants to do, not even those who clean for a living. But there we were, spray bottles of vinegar and water in one hand, balled-up newspaper in the other, and we went to town.
It was late afternoon when we finished. I thought we’d have to wait until the next day to feel accomplished, in wait of the noonday sun to do its final inspection. The still early-setting sun streamed in gently as if it had been waiting all along for the sweet release from behind all that film. It set low in the sky, sending warmth up the height of the bookshelves, skidding across the grain of wooden tables like pebbles across a pond, and slowing a bit before coming to rest upon paintings and family photographs.
Everything was warmed and warm. Winter had finally lost its grip and retreated just enough to let the birds sing a second time that day.