Earth Stood Hard as Iron

Virginia never gets the kind of “bleak midwinter” that Christina Rossetti conjured up for the Nativity out of her English sensibilities.  But the temperature has not been above freezing for four days, and it is now snowing, albeit very lightly, for the second day in a row.  That’s as close as we’re likely to get to her Bethlehem-on-Thames.  The temperature has not risen above 25° during the cold spell; right now it’s 20.7°.  On Tuesday especially the wind was vicious, roaring out of the northwest at over 30 mph to create bone-chilling conditions.

On days like this nature seems immobilized.  A double circumnavigation of the house this afternoon turned up no animals I could see or hear except the barking of a neighbor dog, which very annoyingly is apt to challenge me for walking in my own yard.  Luckily all dogs in the County need to be fenced if they’re left out, and leashed if they’re walking.

There were traces, though.  A few bird tracks in the thin, light snow, and several squirrel tracks, including some on the front porch.  The squirrels seem less abundant this winter, due in part I think to the recent cold (they’re all nested up), in part to the absence of the trees we had cut (nests elsewhere), and in part to the greater abundance of predators, including foxes and hawks (empty nest syndrome).  There are no prints at all on the back patio, meaning no animals there in the last day and a half.  Still, even with our fewer trees “A squirrel could jump from tree to tree / ‘Round the edges of our property,” and for that matter from the top of Academy Street almost to the bottom.  Not exactly Blacon Point to Hilbre, but something.

Earth iron

Earth standing hard as iron on Academy Street.

The rhododendron leaves are drooped and curled; the potted geraniums on the front porch, which had bloomed modestly through the holidays and up to last Monday, finally gave up the ghost.  Yet our flora always are responding to the natural urge.  The daffodils and jonquils are a couple of inches out of the ground.  They get tricked into exposing themselves too soon every winter, and tend to lose some of their potential blossoms.  Seeing those imprudent, sturdy optimists gives us hope every February.

Today, though, the midwinter bleakness prevails.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

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