(for Janet B.)

I didn't really notice the first day of spring. We were too busy shovelling.

It came down wet and heavy, five or six inches of snow, and then the temperature dropped to January levels and the wind picked up. As my husband rightly noted, either we got out and moved the stuff or it would freeze in place, making the driveway impassable. So with shovels and the big snow scoop, he and I and the resident teen got out there and cleared the drive.

It was not much comfort that skeins of geese were honking northward even as we dug ourselves out. Yes, I've seen that yellowish tinge in the willow twigs and a red blush to bramble canes out alongside the highways. I know that we're on the move towards spring. But looking out the window this morning. all I can see (barring the manmade red of a car) is white and grey, mudbrown and black: a white landscape under the sort of blank white sky that says to experienced winterers "more snow's coming." Echhh.

A friend observes how pretty it is. Yes, it is pretty; it was even prettier yesterday, when the sky was was momentarily a deep clear blue and bluish shadows tinged the snow, and we had at dusk that moment of amazing electric blue that never fails to shock and delight me. I do appreciate winter beauty, honestly I do. Just not after March 1st, thank you very much. Right now, I'd rather have Spring Mud Season, ugly as it is, than the most beautiful winter day. I am sick of the whoof of the gas furnace. I want to wash a load of bedsheets and sling them out on the line. I want to contemplate putting up the screen house out back. I want to walk out hatless and coatless and gloveless and feel warm air on my face. But "you can't always get what you want," as the song says. This is Canada in late winter, regardless of the equinox, and it's anything-goes time: warm sun one day, cutting-cold winds the next.

It's hard to believe, at this time of year, that it has ever been anything but winter, or ever will be. Winter has become the wallpaper of life: it's normal. It's just the way things are, and what's the point of getting your knickers in a twist about it? (Memo: of course, as a Southern Canadian, I know perfectly well that I've got no right to speak about Real Winter: that's for people in Iqaluit.)

It feels that way in life too, sometimes. As Scott Peck wrote, famously, "Life is difficult." And sometimes it seems that difficulty becomes the wallpaper of life: it's normal. It's just the way things are, and why should anyone expect anything to be different? It could be so much worse, after all, and it is so much worse for other people--those in the Middle East, for example, or people still struggling in Eastern Europe. Life's so tough for so many people that it feels as though North Americans should, on the whole, sit down and shut up.

But that's not what the heart says, in periods of drought and trouble. It starts getting rebellious and impatient. As one friend of mine said, shaking her fist at the sky, "God, my character is strong enough. Lay off, already!" Then it becomes natural to look at those who seem to have it so much easier, and to grouse mightily about the Unfairness of Life. I hear from friends south of here, that their spring is already well under way, and it only deepens my discontent.

It's hard, then, to listen to people who counsel patience and trust in God, especially if the months or even years pass, and nothing seems to change, or at least not for the better--or not enough for the better, anyway. Patience isn't in fashion these days, anyway; we're supposed to go for what we want--as though somehow, by willpower, we could force the snow back and the spring onward. Maybe Canadian winters are good for spiritual growth, if for no other reason than they do teach endurance.

I know, with some certainty after 30 years in this country, that this may be the last snow of the winter; or if it isn't, it's close enough. I know that in three weeks' time, roughly, I'll be putting those sheets out on the line. I know that by mid-June, this whole town will be flowering and full of the scent of lilacs. This snowfall will pass, probably sometime next week. It doesn't ask a lot of patience.

I wish I had some sort of timetable for my own life: that in two years' time I would have left all troubles behind me and be in smooth, calm, happy peace. Maybe. Maybe not. There's no way of telling. What I have, however, learned is that in the meantime, you look for whatever beauty is available and do your best not to wallow, at least not any more than you absolutely have to.

It's started snowing again, lightly and lazily. I think I will put my boots on and go outside and stick my tongue out, catching the flakes. It's the best I can manage under the circumstances.

Copyright © 2002 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 23 Mar 2002
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