Sure, sure, the calendar says it's just a few more days until Spring formally arrives. But Winter is a nasty, unforgiving, revengeful brute up here in a part of the Blue Ridge that forecasters have a hard time figure out what to even guess at. And the light icing that was mentioned, briefly, a time or two, has settled in to its butcher's work of bending tree limbs and finding bare places on the ground and covering them with broken limbs and old trees that were unsteady on their feet. Maybe it's best that it's so foggy that we can't see far into the woods.
This comes about, mind you, after a lovely day Saturday -— good warm sun, gentle breezes, plenty of blue sky. I was working near the cutting garden, and saw the first few shoots of daffodils poking up through soil that has been frozen much of the past two months. I saw buds on maples starting to swell, small tufts of grass just beginning to show a little pale green, and down by the old house in the hollow below us I saw the first daffs about to break into bloom. The eastern end of that house is sheltered from a lot of the weather, and at the foot of the old rock chimney there's a spot that gets warm every day there's some sun.
And so I thought, foolishly, that Winter was about to give up. Even more foolishly, I started picking up some of the season's fallen limbs — tantamount to poking the weather dragon in the eye. Shoulda known better.
Sunday morning I was up early, cutting a few more dead locust and oak for a few more fires, just in case. We've gone through a bit more than four cords of firewood this year, and I'm out of everything burnable except for a sacred cache of red oak in the back corner of the garage. I've cut next year's wood, split and stacked it, and it's busy drying out and starting to take on that light-gray patina of year-old firewood for this fall. Maybe five cords in all. But I needed enough to get through the last five days of winter. So I found three standing dead trees, enough for maybe forty billets, about 4 inches in diameter, that don't need any kind of seasoning, cut them into firewood lengths and stacked them on the rack on the deck outside our door.
Some of those billets are burning merrily right now, about the only part of my late-winter planning that is working right. Outside this grim Monday morning, sleet is falling and fog is blowing and freezing on limbs and the windows are glazed over with a pebble-grained translucence that makes the place look eerie from the inside — a broad expanse of dull dreary gray illumination. If we could see through the windows, I'm pretty sure we would see Old Man Winter out in the hayfield, dressed in sheets of dismal dun, shooting us the bird.
We will, of course, have the last laugh, but not nearly soon enough.