Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cold and Snowy, Yes, But the Worst of Winter is Over: A Love Letter To Late February

The temperature where I live in northern Vermont only got into the low 20s today. The snow is deeper than it's been all winter. It's going to go below zero again tonight.
It was only about 20 degrees today around my
house in St. Albans, Vermont, but the February sun
has gotten strong enough to start melting the
snow off the stone wall near the south wall of my garden shed.  

So it might seem strange to hear me say it, but the signs around me on this beautiful February day tell me the worst of winter is behind us.

Oh, I know there's plenty of winter left. I wouldn't be surprised to see it go down to 10 or 20 below again before spring hits. Many of the biggest, baddest snowstorms we've had have come in late February and March.

But I do see winter's grip loosening. The sun feels much warmer than it did a month or two ago. The snow melts on the south sides of roofs, on the sunny side of snowbanks, and on steep slopes facing the south.

A cold 20 degrees really doesn't feel as bad as a cold 20 degrees did before Christmas, that's for sure.

I saw a goldfinch today. Their colors turn drab in the winter, but was that a bit of spring yellow starting to peek through on his belly?   And the chickadees are starting to break out their early spring songs.

I've noticed through the years the harshest winter cold ends around mid-February. The long spells of bitter cold below zero weather aren't as intense, and definitely don't last as long as they did in January.

For the record, the normal temperature in Burlington, Vermont today is three degrees warmer than it was in late January. That's not much, but it's a start.
When we get a half inch of snow in mid-February, like we
did last night, I don't obsess over clearing it out
of my driveway like I did in December.  I figure the strengtheing
late winter sun will eventually take care of it.  

This is the time for winter sports. The harshness of deep winter is diminished, the snow is probably as deep as it's going to get, and you can enjoy a full afternoon of the outdoors without worrying about it getting dark just after 4 p.m.

The sun set in Burlington, Vermont at 4:13 p.m. in mid-December. Tonight, it sets at 5:23 p.m. Twilight on a clear evening like this goes on until well past 6 p.m.

I don't mean to rain on winter lovers' parade. You still have plenty of days to enjoy it.

For those of you who are not really the winter type, though, hope is beginning to sprout like those flowers pictured in the seed catalogs flooding your mailbox.

You winter haters will have your share of disappointments with new cold snaps, new snowstorms between now and the time spring really sets in.

But you pretty much made it through another winter.

You can at least think about starting to celebrate.

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