So, apparently, February is now a springtime month.
I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. My town sits at an elevation of about 2300 feet (higher than Asheville and Hendersonville, N.C.), and it usually–it should–snow. But climate change has wreaked its soul-crushing havoc on our weather here just like it has everywhere else, and instead of the snowy, ground-freezing winter we truly need, we’re getting spring. Birds are chirping, rain is falling, flowers are blooming early, trees are budding, and it’s warm. Yesterday it almost hit 70 degrees.
This past Friday, we got our first (and likely only) snow of the season: a mere dusting. And while it was beautiful and right while it lasted, none of us even held out hope it would stick around. Why? Because the next day the temperature was predicted to be in the 60s. Also the days after that. And here we are.
Don’t get me wrong. If it was actually spring, I’d be fine with the weather. However, it is not spring. It’s early February.
I moved to the mountains, in part, for real seasons: for a full-on experience of winter, spring, summer, fall. For the variety, the vividity and the authentic nature of each. Added to that, I sincerely love winter, and I adore snow like only someone raised in South Carolina could. It’s always been magic to me.
Still, there’s more here than magic. There’s a real need for the ground to freeze, for the things beneath to regenerate. For us to have something to thaw out from. I need winter as much as the earth does.
I don’t know if it’s my early middle age, or what: but the lack of real winter–this conundrum of nature–seems to coincide with life upending itself. My loved ones are dealing with all kinds of personal challenges: with parents struggling with health issues, random accidents, children navigating health crises, and more. My country, which I have loved powerfully, and believed in, my entire life, seems shaky and unmoored, led by the proverbial emperor missing his clothes. So much of everything feels like it can’t possibly be real.
And yet, it is real. This is life. This is my life. Our lives.
It’s not in my nature to be a stick-my-head-in-the-sand kind of character. This is not born from any noble effort–feeling helpless is my least favorite feeling. I’ve just always been the type to stay up and fight. But lately, more than ever, I yearn to draw in close, and to draw my people in close with me. To light a fire, to circle in and warm our bodies by it. To draw the blankets up around our shoulders, and tuck in.
Frankly, I’m not sure how much good that does anybody but me.
Winter has always provided a natural looking-in: a sort of hibernation, a hunkering-down as ancient as our animal humanity. But what happens when winter is gone? What do we lose?
I know the answer, and I am at a loss. (Is this the lesson of aging?)
For now, my prayer is simple: for winter to return.