There’s something vaguely sad about a warm snap following a blizzard. Something slightly off-putting. When there’s snow on the ground, one should be uncomfortable being outside in short sleeves and no socks. And yet, it’s not.
The snow seems sad. Days ago it was bright and fluffy and swirling in gale-force winds, piling up in Currier & Ives drifts any way the wind blows. It has a special affinity for vehicles — I parked mine for ten minutes in the storm. When I returned, the front and left side glass was completely covered with snow; the rear and right side, pristine. And after the first night, the six or so inches on the ground surged to a solid foot and a half between vehicles, in that special void where the winds curl up and die, carelessly dumping their burdens where drivers will fear to tread.
Now, though, its glory days have passed on. The warm has taken its toll, and the snow piles look emaciated and almost leprous. Where they once formed fluffy blankets, time and wear have taken their toll. “Pure as the driven snow” loses its meaning when it’s been driven into slush, and the blanket has become so threadbare that mud and muck are exposed.
It’s not purely a visual phenomenon. The snow frantically melts off roofs, forming a steady sound of falling water — convincing some portion of the mind that it’s raining, with all the dreariness and ennui that comes with such a rain. A rain that never really mounts much drama — it’s never so strong, so dark, so windy, so fierce that it invokes our primal fear of Nature. No, it’s the steady drip-drip-drip that speaks to our limbic brain, saying that the world has reached equilibrium, that it can sustain this rain for all eternity. As it is now, thus it will be for all our days.
And it’s not even a refreshing rain. No, it’s a bitterly cold rain that falls on you from the eaves, colder than the air — as the water is only barely liberated from its solid state. The thermometer might tell you that it’s 43.7 degrees Fahrenheit, but that droplet that just went down the back of your neck is only fractions above freezing.
And the air… the air never quite tastes right. Most of the time, when people talk about “tasting” or “smelling” the weather, they mean two things. Either they are speaking of the present, dramatic weather, or the dramatic weather to come. But in this state, there is no drama. There is no ozone in the air, warning of thunder and lightning. There isn’t such great humidity in the air that speaks of hurricanes or monsoons or at least a great soaking.
This is the calm before a storm, when the storm will never come. This is the eye of a hurricane that has been gouged out of the storm.
This is March, when winter is dying and spring is making its presence felt.
But it isn’t March. Winter is only playing dead, and spring may never come. There is nothing fecund about the muddy fields, only desolation. Dirty, unkempt, sloppy, barren fields. What little grass there is, is a dull yellow and brown, faded to almost white. The dull white of old bone. The dull white of death.
Come back, winter. Return. Bring your bitter cold and your piles of snow and howling winds and freezing rain. Freeze and bury the mud, the slush, the bare ground, the dead grass. You might be ready for spring, and I certainly am, but spring will not be rushed. It will not be seduced into an early arrival.
This is my discontent of the winter.