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BOB GRAY: Half-past winter, signs of life

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By Monday, Jan 18, 2016 Life In the Berkshires

Winter hexagon, January 10. Courtesy Sky and Telescope.

Housatonic — The winter wolf, and, for a few weeks, even longed for, has shown up at my door bringing with him the entire pack: thickening ice, and nights letting in the cold from the farthest reaches of the universe.

The rule is “be careful what you wish for,” but regardless of a man’s thoughts and desires, there’s no realistic expectation the deep colds and steely ice might spare us this time around.

Though April is a mere ten weeks away, the cold, this overdo cold, will settle in and lock us down again, freezing tight any thoughts of Spring.

In the ersatz Spring just days ago, I pried open the garden gate to wander around my seed beds, finally unable to resist kicking at the dirt stripped bare by the recent warmth and showers.

I knew, despite my silly hoping, I’d hear a seasonal “thunk.” So I counted the tomato stakes and tried to decide whether I’d plant corn and potatoes this year. Clanging back the gate, I wondered both at my foolishness and my having to learn yet again the earth will only thaw in its own good time.

Skunk cabbage peeking through snow cover.

Skunk cabbage peeking through snow cover.

Thinking more clearly, I wandered to the decades-old apple tree bristling with suckers. Pruning them is more suitable yard work in February. However, my tree-climbing days have gone missing for a while, so I’ll have to drag the sturdy fiberglass ladder to the tree in question and find my hog-nosed clippers in the shed. I haven’t the heart for it just now, so I’ll wait ’til Washington’s birthday, the traditional time to do the work.

Hal Borland, one of my favorite philosophers of nature and time, wrote, “The winter is half-passed…In the next six weeks you might see horns of skunk-cabbage in a sun-warmed swamp, or greening grass along the banks of an unlocked stream.”

Next, “There will be pussy-willows, and after pussy-willows almost anything can happen that has the look and smell of Spring.”

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