Saturday, February 27, 2010

Early Spring

My girls feel cheated that we had snow only once this first winter in Oregon, while their friends back in Texas report snowstorm after snowstorm, missed days of school, and impressive snowman-construction skills. Winter still holds much of the country, while in the northwest the daffodils are up and blooming and we can go without jackets most afternoons.

“No fair,” my kids say. “It’s supposed to snow in Oregon.”

I, for one, have enjoyed the mild winter. We had one frozen week in December, but since then we’ve had very few frosty mornings. I haven’t yet bought myself a winter coat.

Reflecting on the mild winter, my friend Ann said to me the other day, “Don’t get used to it! This is unusual, you know.”

Years ago my parents moved our family from Southern California to Oregon. I was sixteen, a sophomore at Corvallis High School, when one January day it started snowing. School went on, and we watched the snow through the windows while our teacher yammered about cell structure and something called nucleotides. The snowflakes looked like feathers floating down.

Dad picked me up at the end of the day, and the snow fell heavily all through the afternoon and evening. We had eighteen inches—and I thought that was a normal Oregon winter. The snow was beautiful—but so cold. Jimmy Carter had urged Americans to dial down their thermostats, and my parents complied. I wore an extra sweater or two, but it didn’t help my cold toes.

Then came March. Daffodils framed our driveway and trees everywhere bloomed pink and white and green. Spring raindrops seemed to magnify the colors, so that a field of winter rye transformed to emerald, more truly green than I had ever seen. A Southern California spring had none of this glory, because a Southern California winter contains no frozen severity, and little loss.

And here comes March again, more lamblike than fierce this year. My girls feel cheated because we didn’t have snow. I can’t really agree with them, and yet … without the hardship of winter, spring is less a spectacle, easier to take for granted. I’ll breathe in spring, and I’ll watch the daffodils get knocked flat in a few weeks by March winds and rain. The fields will sparkle like jewels when the sun shines. I’ll try and remember harder winters as I watch spring reclaim the landscape. I’ll store up these images of spring to get me through the winters to come.

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