January. The first half of the month was a cold snap. Temperatures were single digits during the day, below zero at night. Frost crept inside the windowpanes. Noses bled. Hands chapped. Everybody got sick. There is an aching misery to cold like that, even inside a heated house. I was glad when the cold snap broke.
My mother used to say of weather like that, “it’s too cold to snow”. I don’t know if there is science behind that, but it’s true that we usually get snow when the temperature isn’t far below freezing. Before and after the snap, that is when the snowfalls came, during this month. My daughter wants to play in it, of course. I run out ahead of her to look at animal tracks before she walks over them.
Yesterday evening my husband took her out in a fresh fall to “hunt for night animals”. They walked all the way around the house looking for tracks, and they found… themselves.
Animals are out in the cold and the snow. Deer roam in flocks. Squirrels chatter and play. My daughter saw a fox, one recent morning, which leaves me the only member of the family who hasn’t had an encounter with one. The fox killed a squirrel behind our house. It left a deep scuffle in the snow, and the squirrel’s tail, which my husband buried so our daughter wouldn’t find it.
And the geese, the Canada geese, what is it with old wive’s tales about Canada geese flying north in the autumn and south in the spring? We are neither far north nor far south, but they are here constantly from August till May. The pond is half frozen right now, and a couple hundred of them are encamped on it. They swim in the frigid water then hop onto the ice for all the world as if it were a sandy beach. They honk. They poop. They take flight in scores, filling the air with a lung-pressing roar of wings and feathers and thunder.
I like the winter palette. I like all of the white; I like the black accents; I like the rainbow of taupes in between, splashed with a rare spatter of red and spread with biting winter-sky blue. I want to bring the colors inside, which is all wrong. They are colors for the outside. Their infinite complexity is part of their charm, and I can’t replicate it.
I can’t pull myself together after the holidays, either. I am still neglecting the housework. I am still neglecting the child. I am still neglecting my weight. It is hard to apply oneself to anything, in weather like this. All one wants to do is to wrap up in a blanket and have a bowl of soup, or a sandwich, or tea and a jam piece. Hibernation. That’s what it is: January is a month for hibernation.
I’ll see you in February.