We are currently stuck in the doldrums of winter, becalmed in the horse latitudes of this frozen season.
Daily we scrutinize the sextant of our calendars. Daily we perform the calculations with obsessive precision, check and recheck the numbers. Each time it comes out the same: we're only one day closer to spring! How can that be? Hasn't this winter drug on for several years now?
Even though everything seems to point toward the fact that time is continuing to march onwards, a glance out the window can give rise to serious doubts.
The ocean of snowdrifts remains petrified in the same position as it was yesterday and the day before and the day before. The trees are haven't changed one whit since autumn, their bare limbs beseeching the dome of the sky. Would it kill the trees to put on a little mid-winter color? Haven't they ever heard of Mardi Gras? A few strings of beads and some Technicolor crepe paper would give our moods a huge boost.
We are on the constant lookout for hopeful signs that winter's demise is nigh. The sun rises sooner and sets later, but on many days it feels as if its power has dimmed. How long has it been since anyone checked the power cord on that big heat lamp in the sky? Is it possible that it might need new batteries?
This is the time of year when the weatherman can become one of the most reviled persons on the planet. He will dangle the prospect of warmer weather in front of our noses, and we respond in a manner similar to a that of a dog being offered a juicy T-bone steak. There is hope! The weather guy said so! Praise the Lord and pack the picnic basket!
But woe unto the weather guy who predicts clement weather that fails to materialize! You can always tell who fell for a particular meteorologist's faulty predictions. They are the ones who say the weather person's name followed by the muttered phrase "who ought to be tarred and feathered!"
It has gotten so that even the smallest snowfall is seen as an immense personal affront. A full-bore snowstorm elicits grumbles loud enough to register on the Richter Scale.
This is because we are so sick of winter, we wish it would just end already. It's as if an unkempt, unemployed brother-in-law dropped by for Christmas and is still parked on the couch come Valentine's Day.
Some positive changes have crept, largely unnoticed, into our lives. For instance, our cold resistance has increased to the point where we no longer see subzero temperatures as a death threat and instead view them as merely a minor inconvenience.
This is because we weren't mollycoddled when we were kids. We grew up in an era before wind chill was invented and were thus forced to go outside for recess no matter what. It could be 2 above with the wind roaring down from the northwest at hurricane velocity and the teacher would say, "Just go outside and play! Sheesh! It isn't even below zero!"
So when we hear that school was called off in some balmy place such as Kentucky simply because the mercury had plummeted to 10 above, we smile to ourselves and say, "If it was 10 above, I'd be breaking out the Bermuda shorts!" And we wouldn't be lying to ourselves. We wouldn't even be stretching the truth, although the same may not hold true for the shorts.
Our mental adaptability has also increased because of the challenges of coping with winter. For example, I have learned to take delight in the little things.
Most days I take a daily constitutional with our dog, Sandy. On days when it's not fit outside for man nor beast, neither man nor beast stays fit.
Sandy is an excellent role model when it comes to taking delight in the small things. Nothing is unworthy of his joyous and enthusiastic investigation.
Is that a new pebble on the edge of the road? It sure smells like it! Hey, is this hole in the snow a mouse hideout? Let's dig in and find out! Whoa! Is that a new raccoon doot? Man, it just doesn't get any better than this!
I never fail to return from my walk both physically and mentally refreshed. And, taking my cue from the dog, I look with new eyes for something - anything! - to impart a bit of delight into this cold and frozen season.
Now if you'll excuse me, I simply must get back to this fascinating garden seed catalog.