Heading through February, winter’s final full month


Jim McGuire



Good news! February is winter’s final full month! In a mere six weeks hence, spring will officially arrive!

Unfortunately, the latter portion of winter has long been considered the season’s harsher half. A view bore out by the historical record. According to weather data for southwestern Ohio, February and March generally serve up more snowfalls and colder temperatures than do December and January.

Not exactly encouraging prospects. And true to form, winter has lately doubled-down, turning much colder. Moreover, in a rude departing gesture, January left us blanketed by the season’s first notable snow.

Winter’s second, harsher half has definitely taken center stage.

Bird and squirrel traffic at our feeders has increased dramatically. So last week I made a trip to the feed store for spare bags of sunflower seeds and scratch corn. I don’t want visiting critters to claim I set a miserly table.

I don’t like being cold. Nor am I fond of scraping ice from my windshield or shoveling and salting the driveway hill. And I purely detest wading through dirty slush in a parking lot while a northwest squall stings my eyes with sleet, and blasting arctic cold threatens to turn my spine into a popsicle.

Nope, there’s not a single masochistic bone in my body. But I do like seeing a forest or field covered with snow. And for awhile each year, I enjoy winter

Snow transforms the common into the extraordinary and translates the familiar into the marvelous. Snow is both lovely and magical—a natural wonder that simultaneously conceals and betrays, clarifies and cloaks, hides and unveils, astonishes and explains.

A familiar meadow buried beneath several inches of snow is suddenly revealed, its underlying form openly on view. Geographical contours are as plain as the folds in a blanket. The coating of snow serves to disclose every knoll, every swale, every hillock.

In the woods, your eye can follow the undulation of a ridgeline, the flats and benches and the angle of the slopes. You can make out the jagged serpentine wandering of every small seasonal streambed.

You’ll soon find even the most familiar lands divulge a few heretofore harbored secrets when they are covered by snow.

Yet the opposite is also true. Snow can also fool the eye, filling and sculpting, obliterating roughness, cloaking that first layer of earth texture beneath a smooth facade.

Snow changes our perspective, causes anyone with even a modicum of awareness to see things differently.

A cardinal in the backyard feeder looks as scarlet as spilled blood against the backdrop of white snow. Jays in the bankside hackberries are like pieces of azure sky. That crumbling barn in a backfield corner becomes an abstract study of line and shadow. What’s left of a sagging rail fence weaves like dark mending stitches on a white bedsheet.

Thanks to snow, the usual clutter and chaos is hidden. We discern things we’ve heretofore missed. Unexpected beauty is quietly displayed.

It’s the difference between merely seeing and amplified insight. Snow imbues all of us with this special vision.

But I have my limits. My penchant for artsy romanticism eventually gives way to pragmatic reality. Bundling up like a polar explorer for a quick slog to the mailbox loses its charm. I get tired of tripping over woodpile logs hidden beneath multilayers of snow. And that regular necessity of morning windshield scraping before I can go anywhere is downright bothersome!

I like snow, and I like winter…but only to a point.

My heart and thoughts eventually switch allegiance, fixating on the future—on that season of lilting birdsong and pastel wildflowers, and burbling streams, amid a resurrecting land of vernal green.

Six more weeks…six more weeks…six more weeks! That’s what I keep saying to myself—the whispered prayer that ultimately gets me through!

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Jim McGuire

Reach Jim McGuire at [email protected]

Reach Jim McGuire at [email protected]