We have had the coldest February on record. I don’t mean to brag, or complain, because we are not alone – most of the province is breaking its own February records – and also because I have so little to compare it to. After three winters up here, all of them completely different, I have decided that there is no normal, that I cannot relax into thinking I know what it will be like, or rail against what is when it isn’t as I think it should be. And as we awake to the reality of our rapidly changing climate, this, I think, is a healthy – or at least truthful – way to go about our quiet little business. Expect nothing. Expect everything.
On this final day of February, that sneaky little month, the wind blew hard and the temperature rose. When the light and pressure changes dramatically I sometimes get migraines, or something close to them. Today an irritating tension pressed inward on my skull, but today spring was also in the air.
When the wind blows like this, everything gets a little kooky. The pig chased the cows, who spooked the horses, who ran for the hills with the dogs in hot, joyful pursuit. Everyone disappeared for a while, until minutes later the throng rounded the trees and crested the hill, having done a thunderous lap of the entire wooded pasture before settling down for a good feed.
In the headachey dark of the basement I dutifully planted 200 onion seeds and 100 “Drunken Lady” lettuces, screwing in fluorescent grow light bulbs and repeatedly removing cats from potting soil. There is something about planting seeds that signals a commitment to make it til spring alive, even when the nights still drop below -20 and the land lays under three feet of snow and ice. Spring here is something we must dream hard to make real. We need to really want it. We need to have seedlings straining on our window sills and work benches, root bound and hungry for real soil and sunlight. We need to be nearly out of firewood (again) and cursing the electricity bill for the heat lamps and water de-icers. We must pass through the fancy, then the certainty, that spring simply will never come, as another snow blows over us and then another. This year it has forgotten us. This year, surely, it just won’t come.
And yet – the horses are shedding. The cats and cows and goats and dogs are shedding. There is hair in the porridge and in the sheets. And hair in your mouth and your ears, great gobs of it floating around the house like tumbleweed, this means spring more surely than daffodils ever could. The geese are venturing out further to bathe in the pigs’ water trough. The snow is slowly melting off the roof. The light is returning, the dawn stretching out long before the sun slips over the mountaintops to warm our faces. The horses are shedding. Spring must be on its way.
So on this wild and woolly day I do not hope, I notice. I plant sweet onions that we’ll be eating this time next year, and I chase horses in the crusted snow, and I rile up the dogs til they’re all bright eyes and flashing teeth, and we gasp and cringe at the violent wind and pile inside to stoke up the fire. Spring will come. It always does.