A few weeks back now, about a week or so before the end of the Long Dark, I was out back with hounds. It was a mild night; no wind and the ambient air temperature closer to freezing than not. The stars shone in their ice candle brilliance, and I took time to convey unspoken greetings to Orion and the Pleiades. A January full moon gazed down like the cold unblinking eye of serpent, lighting up the snow striping the avalanche chutes along Pendleton and crowning my person Kilimanjaro in a way that gets me to think of diamond dust. I caught myself smiling at the moment.
Yet, for the zen perfection of the moment, there was an undertow of macabre. Such is way, a sliding scale of paradoxical balance; for every perceived blessing there is a corresponding curse, and even good deeds have their consequences. Barely a few inches of snow covered parts of the back, and there were patches were winter-browned grass was plainly visible. The mild countenance of the evening spoke more of February going into March, or perhaps giving that month a miss and barreling straight toward April, than January getting ready to slough its calendar skin to February.
"This might be about the best we can hope for," I whispered to the night sky. Chevy, standing by me, took in a mouthful of crusted snow as a bit of a dysfunctional snack.
"You know when winter was?" Miguel Loco asked me a few days later when I spoke with him on the subject. "It was Christmas and right after New Year's. This is pathetic."
It was then we decided, winter was over and done with in the High Country. Or at least here in our Sahel. More than a month early, we were starting toward mud season. This has seemed to be something of a motif lately; being either a month ahead or behind in terms of the climate. We work to adapt to the new paradigm.
In some respects, it's not as bleak as last year, however. There's been snow up high. Loveland has had a total of one-hundred eleven inches this year-last year at this time, they were at sixty-seven-and the snowpack total for the state presently hovers at seventy-eight percent of normal, which is seventy-three percent of average. I do not know what it was this time last year, but I remember Miguel Loco saying it was pretty frightening.
Still, the drought isn't over, even if it would seem winter is. Even the recent dustings-and that's about all we got in our Sahel-have felt more like March snows than those of deep winter. I am not optimistic about us getting a major dump, which leaves the ski areas with plenty of snow and the river-feeding rafters and farmers-with plenty of water.
Part of me feels bad, because part of me wants it warm up more. To be late spring going into summer. I catch myself longing to ride my bicycle and wear shorts on walkabout. We received our first correspondence from the community garden, and I want to look at starts. My daughter might help us more on our plot this year.
Selfish, ridiculous thoughts, I realize...
Here and now, I watch. I like to watch. Later spring and summer will be here very soon indeed. Right now, earlier than anticipated, it is early mud. I listen to rhythms and rhymes of the cosmos, wondering if one of those celestial melodies will sing of at least a little more moisture to keep us from catching fire once it gets hot.