It is something you cannot see, taste, or smell, but there comes a time during the winter when the feeling of the air shifts. Suddenly, imperceptibly, the cold in the air starts to loose its teeth. It's not quite as cold. A far-flung omen, foretelling of spinning of the cyclic wheel. Sooner than thought, the seasons will once again shed its skin.
The crusted snow in front of the house is softer. Almost snowball or snowman making in its quality. What was packed along the roadway turns slush. There is liquid water in some places, showing melt. The dog's outdoor water dish has not frozen over when fresh water is placed therein. Breath is not visible when exhaling.
Part of me wants to argue the fact. I have acclimated to this environment, and, after a few months of cold temperatures, I've grown used it. It's still winter. There is still not any direct sunlight on the house. That's still a week or more away.
But I know different. It's sensation I get every winter. Sometimes, earlier than others. That first omen, which tells me this won't last forever.
It stirs a little bit of excitement in me. Knowing there will be a time when boots and sweaters and heavy coats and nightly fires will not be necessary. The river will unfreeze and plants will bloom. There'll be different birds coming to the feeder, even, eventually hummingbirds. We'll be able to grill outside comfortably, and even eat out on the porch or in the yard.
Looking west, I can see a parasol of gray cloud. Thinner than earlier in the season. It's not quite as intimidating. There is a slight chance of flurries, but, at this altitude, flurries can come in high summer if the conditions are right.
Here and now, it is a pleasant high country afternoon. Not sunny and bright, but not a blizzard, forcing us all to hole up and hope we have enough supplies to weather the storm. It's still daylight. I find myself smiling, embracing the feeling in the air. It fills me with a sense of hope.