"When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen," Laura Ingalls' Pa used to say, and this year is proving him right. We're having the kind of winter that I moved to Vermont to experience--a no-nonsense season of deep snow, sub-zero days, and clear light glinting off red barns.
Every year, the day after the solstice I insist that I can already tell a difference--the days are getting longer. Spring is just around the corner. The holidays are past, the Christmas flu is but a fading memory, and peace descends upon the earth. The garden is asleep under its white frozen duvet. The freezer is full of veggies that I planted and weeded and watered and harvested all summer long. The dogs, when it's below zero and the wind is blowing, are content with just a short walk.
There's really not that much to do, other than talk to the houseplants as I mist them and refill their humidifier, and work on the long-neglected piece of needlepoint that I bought a year ago. The snow plow cleared our driveway before dawn today, but the north wind has playfully drifted the snow back onto it, so the long-postponed trip to the dump will have to be re-postponed. And shoveling the front walk can wait until the temperature climbs into the 20s. In the chilly sun porch the goldfish are in semi-hibernation, and take their own sweet time coming to the surface at feeding time.
It's a lovely, slow, empty time of year. The hens, who feel about the solstice the way I do, have started laying again. But if I wait until the evening to collect the eggs, I find them cracked and frozen in the nest. Eggs are wondrous things, however, with amazing powers of survival. After I bring them into the warm house, the cracks seal themselves again somehow, and disappear without a trace.