Heading Into Another Deep Freeze
The transition between winter and spring, in Houston, is odd. Spring feints with a warm breeze, usually between Christmas and mid-January, then winter snaps back with a vengeance. Our red maple has been punked every year but one, into blossoming twice. I hope this hasn’t halved its lifespan. Sometimes I miss four, well-defined seasons. But as the decades creep past, I’m grateful not to have to shovel the driveway or drive on ice. It’s beautiful, but deadly. I never appreciated the latter, as a child, and it’s a wonder I survived childhood, as many times as I said things like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to get stuck in a snowdrift?” while my dad was navigating a snowstorm on the highway. I imagined us playing cave-dwellers, warm and safe inside the car, with nothing to do but read and tell each other stories. I never thought ahead to when the gas tank would run dry, or to 18-wheelers sliding into the snowdrift behind us. The first time I caught a patch of ice, behind the wheel, having to make split-second decisions like, “Throw it into the ditch or hope the cars in front of me will bring me to a stop before I slide into oncoming traffic?” I realized just how lucky I was. The first time my daughter, probably around the age of four, suggested that it might be fun to go slip-sliding down a hill in the car, I snapped at her. There I was, focused on keeping us alive while she thought it would be amazing to spin around 360 degrees on a country road. I immediately apologized to her, and later called my dad to say, “I get it now.” I remember the magic of Christmas lights reflected on a thin crust of ice, at night. Ice-skating on a frozen lake, marveling at fish frozen into the black ice below. I remember how joyful my dog was to run through a foot of snow, plowing deep furrows into the loose powder with her nose, then tossing it into the air as she ran back to get dry and warm again. I can hold those memories, warm and safe and dry, in my head. I don’t need to relive them, when push comes to shove.
Longing for Four
Twigs, encased with ice,
Bending low to hardened earth –
Frost bows to sunlight.
Secreted in soil, nascent,
Spring forth riotous!
Shimmers on concrete
Belie sultry summer’s drought,
Conjure thoughts of rain.
A single red leaf,
Soon joined by gold, brown, yellow,
Blankets sleeping grass.
Stay warm, safe, and dry, this weekend. Never trust the power grid. We learned that last year. Make sure the phones and Kindles are charged up. Have propane for the grill. Pile on the blankets, tuck a few bottles of hot water underneath – pioneers used bricks heated over a fire – and curl up with a good book, if you can. Spare a kind thought for the first responders who can’t tuck in, and don’t feel you’re being lazy – you’re doing you part to help them by not becoming part of their problem. If you don’t have to be out on the roads in a winter storm, don’t be.