Jim McGuire: Hopes and expectations


By Jim McGuire

Contributing Columnist

February is off and running. Time and season keep marching on. Our hopes and expectations are on the rise.

But regardless of what we’d like it to be, February isn’t spring. Moreover, February isn’t even March—which is technically spring come the latter third of the month, though often in name only.

If you’ve lived in Ohio for any length of time, you can doubtless remember years when even that short concluding period of March—official spring according to the calendars and almanacs—instead delivered an ongoing wintery mix of snow and sleet, arctic winds and numbing cold, plus gloomy skies that persisted until April.

Reality says we’re just three days beyond winter’s official midpoint. Unfortunately, the worse news is this second winter helping winter has long been considered the season’s harsher half—a view bore out by the historical record.

According to weather data for southwestern Ohio, February and March generally serve up more snowfalls and colder temperatures than do December and January.

If you need any visual convincing, just look out the window at the aftermath of our recent winter storm!

One of the time-tested rural dictums of the not-too-distant past said if a man counted half his wood and half his hay unused by the early weeks of February, he could expect to come through the remainder of winter safely. Now was when the countryman, worried about his family’s welfare, would make those careful evaluations.

Though I don’t have concerns about needing sufficient hay to feed any livestock through the rest of winter, I did give my backyard log pile a good scrutinizing—making certain I could saw and split plenty of firewood to heat our house well into April.

Just before this recent storm arrived, I spent an hour or two tidying up and replenishing the stacks of ready-to-burn firewood I keep handy by both front and rear doors. I also filled up the indoor rack by the woodstove.

The day was sunny and warm. The Stillwater River, which flows past our cottage, was in great shape—a lovely soft jade, clear and shot through with enchanting light, filled with sparkle.

I found myself wondering if the suckers had moved into the riffles…and then wondered whether one of the resident crappie, which inhabit the big pool in front of the house might be inclined to bite.

Just let a sunny day with milder temperatures come along in February, and it’s all too easy to allow our hearts and wishes to get the better of us.

What is it during winter’s latter weeks that gets us so off-track from the seasonal rhythms? How come we’re so shamelessly prone to toss logic and personal history to the wind—forgetting what we know from past experience of February’s temperament?

We’ve all been here before. What confuses our sense of flow and timing—causing us to desire what we can’t have, and then be upset when we don’t get it?

Why does the merry song of a Carolina wren suddenly seem filled with vernal portent? After all, that little bird has been singing just as loud, whenever the mood struck, for the past two months.

“I believe we all have a green longing within us,” my old friend Frank Snare once said. “A built-in human need to witness a resurrection of earth from winter’s grasp.”

It’s as good an answer as I know.

I do know winter will end. But in it’s own good time. Not in February, and probably not in the first few weeks of March. And it may not end when the calendars and almanacs says it will, either.

Yet end it will, sooner or later. Our “green longing” will eventually come to pass.

Nature’s pace is slow, steady, deliberate—never static, and always in a forward direction. The hard part lies in waiting it out. You can’t hurry time.

“To everything there is a season…” says the book of Ecclesiastes. The seasons follow their natural, perpetual course.

But in this ancient truth, there’s also reassurance.

We’ve crossed the divide. While we may not be able to do much coasting, the road ahead is all downhill from here—and each day puts us that much closer to spring.

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