Janet Sheridan: 13 weeks later
February 23, 2017
On Nov. 17, I walked through the tender light of dawn beneath a misty moon and dusky sky. Leafless trees wearing coats of earth-toned bark marked my passage, cool air stirred around me and leaves crunched to the rhythm of my stride. Watched by cautious deer, I followed a zigzagging trail up a hill west of my home. At the top, I turned to see Craig stretched below, hushed and expectant, as though awaiting an event of import.
Later that morning, I left my house to run errands and realized winter had arrived in the Yampa Valley. The air carried a sharp coldness, and the fresh breeze of dawn was now a willful wind of floating snowflakes. A dense, low sky defeated the sun; gray showed in all directions.
The flakes multiplied; and by afternoon a light blanket of snow stretched over lawns, streets, buildings and parked cars. Automatic headlights ignited in an imposed dusk as students scurried home along snow-spotted streets and sidewalks, their heads lowered and shoulders hunched in jackets too thin. Above them, the large branches of mature cottonwoods swayed to the will of the wind like ballerinas responding to the increasing momentum of music.
Darkness, when it fell, seemed premature and unwelcoming, though it descended the same time as it had all week. As night deepened, a scrim of ice formed on sidewalks; the snowflakes gave up; the wind blew itself out; and, along with the people of Craig, I waited to see what the next day would bring.
We knew the time would come when windless days of gentle sunshine and caressing warmth would end, and the lawn chairs and bicycles optimistically left outside would look abandoned under mounds of snow. It was no surprise that many folks had delayed equipping their cars with ice-scrapers and snow brushes until faced with the task of rubbing frozen snow away with bare hands at the end of a long workday.
But even as we said good-by to autumn, a season generous with its golden gifts, I began to anticipate the comforts of winter — home and hearth, family and lamplight, down comforters, warm clothes and hot chocolate. I looked forward to the dramatic landscapes of winter: generous flakes swirling and dancing as they frost the valley with thick layers of snow and soften the contours of yards, fields and mountains; days of sunlight and blue skies when diamonds dance on crusted snow and shadows stretch long across the brilliant whiteness.
Now, 13 weeks later, I am winter weary: No longer can I write chirpy words about the season's wonders; and I find it impossible to praise the uneasy, unattractive in-between weather we currently endure.
In the early morning, the outdoor temperatures never relate to my reality. If it's below 30 degrees, I dress warmly; then the sun makes a statement, and my winter coat, once cozy and comforting, seems cumbersome and overheated. When warmer temperatures encourage me to dress in lighter layers, a bitter wind whips, rain drizzles, snow swirls; and I reproach myself: "What was I thinking? I should know wearing a hoodie in February is as silly as a chicken making snow angels."
I'm tired of the view from my windows, which reminds me that snow does not age well. The disappearance of the white, downy quilt that covered our yard exposed a scruffy lawn that looks as startled and unkempt as I do when rudely awakened. Crusty scabs of snow litter the grass, and the gravel-encrusted piles along our street shrink, but refuse to surrender. Sidewalks, blessedly clear, display the leavings of the deer and dogs that used them as personal depositories throughout the winter.
As l watch a morning snowfall awaken snowplows, and trees struggle to look optimistic beneath low, leaden skies, I wonder, "Will this limbo never end?" And fear it won't.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every month.