It was as if that last patch of snow knew it was the last day of winter. Actually it’s stretching to call it a patch. It was more like the remnants of a discarded snow cone. It was gone by the end of the day.
I have never lived through “snow” before. Over the past 6 years in the Pacific Northwest I experienced snow’s occasional visit. It would last a day or two. I would watch sadly as the snow disappeared.
This year, I learned about the persistence of snow—how it can take root and linger, blanketing the landscape with its whiteness, burdening tree branches with its weight, covering what lay beneath.
I had wanted this, hoping the transformation of the landscape would transform my inner landscape. But as it lingered, I found myself almost anxious about what would be revealed when it finally relented.
The snow arrived in February as I was wrestling with grief and depression—an ordeal that began in October, midway through autumn. Winter seemed like it would be just an extension of autumn, as if it would drift placidly into spring, with no transforming landscape.
Then that last month of winter happened.
I have never experienced such a clear demarcation of the end of one season and the arrival of the next. Normally I know it’s spring when there is that one crisp, clear cold day — spring cold. Not a winter cold. Not an autumn cold. Spring cold.
This year it went from winter cold, to spring warm. Almost overnight. The landscape has turned to green with flowers starting to bloom. I don’t know if the tulips will have survived. Scattered around are the occasional branches taken down by the weight of snow.
I think I remember this landscape. But it was covered so thoroughly in white, it all seems a bit new to me.
I seem to have worked my way through grief and depression. I spent a good portion of fall and winter doing the shoulda’, coulda’ woulda’ dance. Walking barefoot over the red-hot coals of disappointment and failure, strangely hoping that would somehow change the outcome that led to my grief and depression.
It did not. I read in an Anne Lamott book that forgiveness is giving up all hope that the past could have been any different. So I forgave myself and accepted that the past was what it was.
There are no do-overs in life. Only well let’s-try-this-then. I discovered there were fewer this-thens this time around. That’s actually a function of wisdom gained from experience. And it’s a good thing because as I wander into my 8th decade (as in turning 70), I get that as the road ahead gets shorter, having fewer options is actually better. The illusions distract.
Teach us to number our days that we might apply our hearts unto wisdom. That’s from Psalm 90. I don’t quote scripture out of purity, but rather for its poetry.
I have arrived at my present. There are no bells and whistles or the desire to charge forth into the future. It’s simply one season following another. There’s work to be done. Not so much a spring cleaning, as a spring clearing.
And an understanding that when winter arrives, light returns.
I was born in Seattle, and we lived in Edmonds until I was about 10, when we moved to Belmont, and later to Pleasanton, when I was mid-way through high school. My formative years (of learning who I am) were during endless days spent playing in the woods, picking wild huckleberries and blackberries, catching bullfrogs or rainbow trout; or on special days, digging clams along the Puget Sound. I remember one summer spending 2-3 weeks at Camp Orkila on Orcas Island.
At least two winters, I remember that we got snowed-in for weeks. My mom grew so desperate near the end of the longest snow-in, that she sent me (her eldest) to tromp through chest-high snow for about one mile to the nearest store, so I could buy her some bread and meat for us to eat. I suspect that drear days on-end in frozen WHITE-OUT added to my mom’s DEPRESSION and dread of a sometimes drunken/abusive husband (my dad survived the North Pacific in WWII and Korean Conflict, but gained the addiction to cigarettes and alcohol which made him HELL to live-with). DEPRESSION was something I eventually had to sort-through when my career took a sudden end between 2008 and 2010, when NOBODY would interview me as a prospective architect, interior designer or facilities manager. Going through that misery probably made me even-more empathetic (which was already my strong-suit).
For me, your description of the newly-revealed landscape after weeks or-longer of being WHITE and COLD, reminded me of the bright green or yellow shoots of grass poking out through the disappearing snow. The iced-over brooks and ponds became new playpens as spring was drawing-nigh. Tadpoles and bullfrogs were coming soon.