Yesterday, it felt like being at the fishing holes was the best possible place on earth. The sun burned on the skin. There was a free display of ice in all its forms, something unappreciable in low light and deep cold. Crystal ice, as clear and transparent as glass, jumped out for recognition. There was ice impregnated with sticks and debris, bringing new appreciation to its depth and genesis. And the recent surface water was freshly frozen, splintering like broken glass in all directions as I walked; a cosmetic distraction from the treacherousness of spring travel. There was no wind and all was quiet except for the gentle swishing from yet another burbot on my line.
By my definition, we are now in the third and final stage of winter. This is the time when I do not want winter to end. We still have enough snow and ice to allow efficient travel. We have intensity of light paired with ever lengthening days. It is cold enough to keep the bugs at bay. It is warm enough to encourage outside work but not so warm as to make it insufferable. And all is clean, the inevitable mud still biding its time.
I consider the fall months to be our introduction to winter. It is the time when the bulk of snow accumulates and our bodies adapt to the increasing cold. It is a time when the concept of winter is still novel and we preoccupy ourselves with new recreational opportunities. And we are distracted from the progressive darkness by the imminence of Christmas.
The second phase of winter is heralded by the dark, cold months. The euphoria of the Holiday Season has ended, and we gauge the progression of our lives by how long we have endured the most recent cold snap. We worry about how much wood our stoves are gobbling up, doing the mental math of consumption rate versus supply every time we fill the wheelbarrow at the woodshed. We wander through our houses, taking note of the drafty spots, making the familiar false promises to ourselves that, come this summer, we will most definitely rectify the situation. We forget to shave and cut our hair. We confuse night with day. Those that can, are off to exotic lands….unless they particularly enjoy despondency and morbid introspection.
But then, our “spring winter” is suddenly upon us and the melancholia melts away. We forget about the empty woodshed and mounting fuel bills. We toss the parka and walk with a spring. We speak in full sentences again. We plan for summer. When asked by the returning folks how our winter was, we minimalistically respond, “great, just great!” And off we go to soak up the beauty at the burbot holes …