“To the dull mind nature is leaden;
To the illumined mind the whole world burns and sparkles with light.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had dreamt of it, prayed for it and begged for it since November. I had crossed my fingers, danced the requisite dance and diligently watched forecast after forecast after forecast, all in the hope that I might somehow influence Mother Nature into dropping a few inches of that fluffy white stuff in my neck of the woods. Just a few inches over the course of an entire winter–was that so much to ask?
Last winter wasn’t much better. It was one of the driest winters on record in my area, but it was also one of the warmest–and since I’m a summer-lovin’ fool, I was okay with that. In my mind, winter was only good for two things anyway: minor snow accumulations that would result in the cancelling of school and major depletion of the tick and chigger population that would result in less feasting on my limbs come summertime. If I couldn’t spend entire days curled up in my pajamas while watching the snow silently piling up on the other side of the window, then I was content to stock up on insect repellents for the coming summer while running around in short sleeves and flip flops, soaking up mega doses of mood-lifting sunshine and singing a happy song. Seventy degrees in January? Please and thank you.
I assumed this winter would be different, though. Surely we wouldn’t have two warm, dry winters in a row–even for the weird, wacky weather of southern Missouri, that would be a bit of a stretch.
But November, which could usually be counted on to produce at least a few hope-filled flurries, crept nonchalantly toward December with nary a flake in sight. At the end of the month I was visiting wineries in the northern part of the state and giving thanks for the slightly above-normal temperatures and dry conditions that allowed me to sit comfortably outdoors surrounded by lush greenness. Besides, it wasn’t even “officially” winter yet; there was still hope for a dusting of the pretty powder.
And then in December, it started to seem as if maybe Old Man Winter and Mother Nature were in cahoots to deprive me (yet again) of any chance of a treetop-glistening, sleigh bell-ringing, merry and bright white Christmas. I remembered wistfully the long-ago December days when my sons would build snowmen in the yard before splattering each other with snowballs, racing down the hill on their sleds and then dripping inside for belly-warming mugs of hot chocolate. I remembered . . . and then I moved on, taking advantage of the well above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation to hike around a nearby spring. It wasn’t the landscape I had been hoping for, but it was a soul-satisfying alternative.
January rolled through with above-normal temperatures and above-normal rainfall (that’s right–rain, not snow), and even though I was being robbed once more, at least there was comfort in knowing that the plants were being fed, the ponds were being filled and the drought-plagued farmers were breathing a tentative sigh of relief.
And then the winds of February came roaring through the hills. The rain continued to fall, and the temperatures started dropping, and for the first time all winter there was a real reason to hope. Snow was even in the forecast! Maybe I would get a chance to waltz through a winter wonderland with my camera after all . . . but no. It wasn’t meant to be. Old Man Winter and Mother Nature conspired again, teasing me with a splattering, an entire quarter inch of sleet–just enough to turn the bluejays and cardinals into dog food thieves–before barreling north with the blizzard that could have (should have) been mine. I was disgusted, angry and depressed.
One day in early March I was walking to my mailbox when I spotted a tiny speck of yellow at my feet–and there, in all its glorious wonder, was a solitary dandelion, an unofficial sign of impending spring. Then, the very next day, my daffodils began bursting into bloom, and I was suddenly surrounded by the color of sunshine. Those summer-lovin’ endorphins started kicking in, and I was no longer longing for a blanket of white. And when the thermometer registered 80 degrees a couple days later, not only did I acknowledge that it was going to be another snow-free winter, I embraced the idea. Bring on spring! Bring on longer days and warmer nights, baseball games and bike rides, burgers on the grill and fresh strawberries in the produce aisle, short-sleeved t-shirts and flirty sundresses, fresh air streaming through open windows and north-bound geese flocks honking on the breeze. Bring it on!
Apparently Mother Nature took note of my acceptance and my new-found joy, and she did not approve. On the morning of March 20, she told Old Man Winter to pack his bags for another year and asked spring to join her in a dastardly plot to remind me that, regardless of what some silly calendar might indicate or what my wishes might be, SHE was still in charge. And on the very next day, she and spring joined forces to provide what winter had refused to deliver–seven inches of billowing softness that cloaked my world in whispering beauty. The snow started falling just before dark, and I raced outside to capture it with my camera–and then I was up and outside the next morning long before sunrise just so I could wander the white-washed woods and revel in their welcome solitude. Yes, I was still ready for all the “normal” gifts of spring, but this . . . this was a cherished, long-awaited gift that needed to be appreciated and enjoyed while it lasted.
And that’s the thing about early-spring snowfalls in Missouri–they don’t stick around for long. By the next day, the temperature was rising again and the snow was starting to melt into the ground, and by the day after that it was all but gone. But I was okay with that, too. I had gotten what I asked for–just one heavy snowfall–and I was ready to move on.
Maybe Mother Nature isn’t the only fickle one.
“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest
clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature,
wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig,
is clad with radiance.”
(Note: To see a larger version of any photograph, just click on it–and then click on it again to see the full-size version.)