A Mid-Winter Hiatus

The American South does lots of things well, but Winter ain’t one of them.  While hardy New-Englanders take February like a dose of nasty-but-fortifying medicine and mountainous regions celebrate the annual return of snow bunnies to the slopes, the denizens of Dixie roll ourselves up in fleece and wonder why God sent an Ice Age our way.  He didn’t, not really, but when you live in the sun belt, it’s hard to cope when the sun goes away. Our houses and wardrobes don’t accommodate perma-frost that well and neither do our moods.  We like living outdoors in a world drenched in green instead of staring through the window at a universe of muddy browns and grays. It gets depressing. That’s why Wednesday was such a ray of hope.  It was a Mid-Winter Hiatus.
Winter doesn’t look so dreary
when the sky is this blue!

After two fairly solid cold snaps and an impressive amount of rain, the sun came out on Tuesday and Wednesday and put some blue back in the sky.  Not that thin, watery blue sky that makes a cold day colder either, but the deep azure we’ve come to accept as a birthright.  I knew it was time, not only to seize the day, but opportunity, and my gardening gloves.

For all of our grumbling, the Deep South has a short dormant season, and this is it.  Now is the only time of year I can make headway against the kudzu, sawbriar, and Jimson weed that threatens to take over my yard each year.  My allergies return with every spring, and this stuff starts to grow…well, like weeds. So, if I want to get in front of the enemy and encourage real grass to grow, this is my chance to do it. With my wheelbarrow and implements of destruction in hand, I began uprooting and toting away the scrub.

My hero

Sometime after carting away the sixth wheelbarrow load of thorned and prickly fauna, I realized something I hadn’t noticed for weeks: it was too hot to work in a sweatshirt.  A quick check of the phone app verified the miracle: the temperature was 70 degrees and climbing!  I started back to the house to change my shirt and then saw my annual miracle: the first flower of the year.

Almost thirty years ago, while my home was being built, the wife of the owner-contractor planted narcissi in the yard.  Since then, these flowers have returned every mid-winter, as if to affirm that, no matter how impossible it seems, Spring will return.  Of course, narcissi are so common they may be a floral cliche but they are the first flowers to appear each year, and that’s why I treasure them. They give me hope and color when I need it the most.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re heroes.

And, for the next few hours, everything seemed right with the world. I cleared out weeds, while I listened to a book on tape and felt the sun on my face. When the work was done, I sat outside with a drink and decided the returning cold does not dismay me.  It’s part of the cycle of life down here and, at worst, it’s temporary. Spring is coming. I’ve seen the signs.  They were there in a mid-winter hiatus.

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