"Here's the layer from the last week in December. Wasn't quite as cold and so the snow was wetter and compressed more. But if you look here at this layer from the last week of January, you can see that the snow was much drier, and crystalized more upon compaction. This darker vein is from a vicious cold snap in the middle of January when everyone was using their wood stoves, and that darkness is actually soot. 'Course, when spring comes - long about June or July - and some of this starts to melt, that soot will be carried back into the ground, returning to its origins, and eventually be sucked up the trunk of some other tree, bringing nutrients and life to that tree. But the really ironic thing is that that same tree will probably end up in a snowbank as soot someday, too."
Me? I'm just older. HE'S the one that changed so much. He turned into a teenager. A snarling, saber-toothed, bullheaded, independent teenager. How could he do this to me? He used to be such a happy little boy, so easy to please, so easy to handle. We had so much fun, even when he accidently broke my tooth with a swing. (OK. That was PARTLY my fault.) Even last summer when it was just the two of us, together on a camping trip for a week, we both came through it in one piece. Lately, though, a thought has been prowling around in my subconscious when I'm just drifting off to sleep: If I had it to do all over again, I'd raise goldfish. Or minks. Or even wolverines! Anything has to be easier than raising a teenage son!
Let the others call their sports dealies (pronounced dee-lees) March Madness. I know what real March Madness is. It's the feeling that you will never be warm again. That you will forever dress in so many layers of clothing that you look like a tick that's ready to pop. The hair on my legs will forever be stunted and irritated from wearing long-johns all year long.
For those of you unfamiliar with long-johns, let me say up front that they are a godsend. If someone had not invented them, they would have invented themselves. When you live in an arctic climate like we have here in northern Minnesota (ok, it's not really an arctic climate, but it's pretty darn arctic-like at times!) not even sturdy denim jeans like your mom bought you when you were eight-years-old will keep the cold from sneaking up under your cuffs and crawling up toward your thighs. And those were good jeans, too. I don't know when they quit making jeans like that but they shouldn't have.
Ok. So maybe I was wrong when I said that winter would never end, but it sure seemed that way. Of course, every year it seems as though winter will never end. Winters just seem to drag on for at least half a year. Hey, wait a minute...snow in October, November, December, January, February, March and April...HEY! That's SEVEN months! No wonder it seems like winter is so long.
But now, all is well. Bob and Roberta (our recurring robins) have come back to build a new nest in the crabapple tree out back (maybe this year they'll build it high enough so the cat can't reach it!), my rhubarb at the edge of the garden is crowning (I can see the head! Breathe! OK. Now push!!), the chives has snuck out from under the coverlet of snow and is showing its spikey head of green (my teenage son's hair looked just like that once...the one time he went and got his haircut alone), the crocuses (crocusi?) are flexing their muscles and pushing aside snow and leaves to reach for the sky (Your blossoms or your life! Now reach for the sky, mister!), and Jack Frost's twin brother, Chester Chlorophyll, has been making the rounds among the pines and other evergreens (Oh, a little dab of green right there would be divine).
Note: Spring in quotation marks means: that period when, technically, Spring has arrived, via virtue of some ancient Roman calendar, but outside the snow is six feet deep and daily high temperatures often don't break the freezing mark.
Until you've lived somewhere you can walk on water four or five months out of the year, you can't understand the excitement of seeing open water again. When you go ice fishing Thanksgiving day through St. Patrick's day or even April Fools Day, the day the lake opens up again is a big deal.
I have a friend in Dallas, Texas who has never experienced the thrill (or is that "chill"?) of below-zero temperatures. I talked to him this past winter when our temps were hovering around twenty-five degrees-below-zero, and he told me the coldest weather he had ever personally been in was eight degrees above zero. He was an army brat when growing up, and his father had always been stationed in warm climates. When they settled in Texas, he finally experienced what he calls "real cold", pronounced "ray-all cold." One time, they had temperatures below freezing for a whole week, and the ice on his parents' swimming pool froze, and he was actually able to walk on it! Amazing!