If the apex of joy is to be young and in love and in Paris in the springtime, then there must be – for the sake of balance – an opposite situation, a deep pit of misery.
Most of us have been there. Let’s call it to be old, and disillusioned, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, in February.
Chances are good you woke this morning in darkness or in the faintest excuse for daylight, hopped along your night-chilled floors to a window, through which you were informed of the latest snowfall or other fashion of frozen water that would need to be shoveled, pushed, swept or scraped from porches, steps, cars, driveways and roads before any kind of escape could be managed.
You will shuffle toward your mailbox taking baby steps. Careful, now, don’t want to slip and fracture your other wrist, do you? You want to keep your natural hips as long as you can, too.
Your nose is running and your coat pockets are stuffed with soggy tissues.
The cold and the dampness make this a perfect day for all your joints to stage a protest rally.
Later, you notice the deer have run out of things to eat in the woods and are now rummaging through your snow-covered flower garden for the choicest and tastiest perennials. They are nibbling off the last of the rhododendron leaves, and yet you feel too tired to go through the effort of scaring them away. They have learned, too, that when you open the door and yell “Scram, you giant evil forest rats!” that this is not fatal to them, and they can return in a minute or two to continue their feasting. They chuckle amongst themselves at the feeble fencing you’ve erected that you once imagined might prevent them from bellying up to their favorite smorgasbord.
At least the deer do not wish to be inside your home, like the mice who have been leaving their droppings and seed shells under the sink and in the hall closet and in the silverware drawer.
They are in competition for the cosiest places with the stinkbugs.
If the color of October is gold and April’s hue light green, then the color of February is slush: a grayish brown formed by mixing snow with salt, soot and road dirt.
The best thing about February is it is shorter than all the other months and, like the others, it ends. We must keep thinking as we hack away at the half-inch coating of ice in order to open our car door that spring will come, eventually. Even during the most awful year for weather – 1816, the “Year With No Summer” – spring came. It stayed for a short time, and then winter returned.
North America and Europe experienced months of cold days and overcast skies that killed crops and created famine.
It would be another century before it was known an enormous volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1815 threw massive amounts of ash into the atmosphere, enough to block out the sun.
So, if you’re feeling particularly peeved or penalized by this winter’s weather, consider that things could be worse.
Spring will come, as it always does.
We may no longer be young. And love, which we breathed so deeply when we were young, may be just an unidentifiable fragrance we detect momentarily in the wind.
And let’s face it, this is Pennsylvania, not Paris.
But we can have springtime, and we will have it soon.