The first extended blast of artic air and chill drains hope of future warmth and forces you to settle in for a long winter ahead. This can happen in December, but more often than not occurs in January. It starts off innocently with a lull in the weather and then a sharp drop in temperature that remains in place for a long time. New snow piles on the old like successive layers of thick white paint on walls. The sharp edges of the landscape are both blunted by snow and sharpened by ice as it is redefined with a cold hand.
You never feel that the cold will leave but one day ice changes to water and the smell of the melting Earth emerges. It is not so much the scent of fresh life but rather a smell and reminder of the past. The odor of decomposition. As things begin to heat up a bit, fog forms creating a misty view out the kitchen window. The snow melts revealing prior activities: a rabbit jumping over an early snow, squirrels looking for a fallen seed, voles tunneling their way through a layer.
Over the next few days, these traces are removed as the water rolls down and a mist lifts from the hills. Every few hours a new landscape emerges until the only thing reminding you of the past are piles of snow that take longer to be erased from memory and the grounds. The soil is a tired brown far removed from its prior green. We have months to go before we can count on sustained growth and I know that we will have a few more melts before the last arrives.