So far, this winter has been a dud. I pity the kids who got skiis and toboggans for Christmas. With no snow here, there is a definite lack of fun in our neighbourhood. Gardens, lawns and parking lots everywhere are bare. There is no winter wonderland to go walking in, no snowballs to throw, no outdoor rinks for skating.
We have had other winters with very little snow, but this year is different. Not only are we bereft of snow; we haven’t even had normal winter temperatures. Except for one brief cold snap, most days have been above the freezing mark. Some have even been warm enough to go outside without a winter coat. And while this sounds like a great idea for those who hate the winter burdens of shoveling and treacherous driving, it has thoroughly confused the landscape.
I have seen hostas poking through the ground, lush green lawns and even forsythia bushes with bright yellow blooms. During the Christmas season, my daughter picked fresh mint leaves to garnish our English trifle. I was able to cut rosemary, thyme, sage and even parsley to season my homemade chicken soup.
All of this seems odd, and a little unsettling. The seasons feel out of order, as if they have forgotten their usual cycle. It is a little like children who die before their parents–it’s just not the way we expect things to happen and it doesn’t seem right at all.
I worry, too, for what lies ahead. Those poor trees and plants that felt the balmy weather and decided to plump up their buds and push tender shoots above ground! What will happen to them when cold weather finally does arrive? And will they have the energy to face the springtime with their usual vigour and beauty? I would hate to face a spring without the usual robust daffodils and fragrant apple blossoms.
Only time will tell, I suppose. The children may still get their snow days when schools are closed, and the backyard rinks may freeze enough to skate on. Surely spring will arrive eventually. For now, however, all we can do is wait. The natural world, with its patterns of living and dying will have to sort it all out for itself. Perhaps this winter more than most, we are learning that for all our intelligence and advancement, there are definite limits to our human powers. Even we can’t make the seasons change.