Ground Hog Day

I get up again. It is gray, rainy or cold. I take a shower, put on another layer of clothes, make the breakfast, empty the dishwasher, load the laundry, go for a walk, head to the grocery or bank or some other banal destination. The trip out is categorized as an errand. Errand is such a bland word. It starts with “err”. That has to be a clue. The name, the act fits perfectly into the colorless ritual of sameness of the southern winter.

Usually winter in the South is mercifully short. Short enough that everyone here just hunkers down (a term used in its most loose sense). Really, every one just whines for a few weeks. No one buys wool sweaters or mugs for hot drinks or soup pots to really prepare for an frigid extended season of want. There are no snow shovels on display at hardware stores and only a pitiful smattering of sleds, just in case a freak snowstorm blows through. No, winter here is usually a non-event. But not this year. It is never ending. No snow, only gray day after, cold day, after gray day. The alarm arouses us to another morning. We rise. It is Ground Hog day again. Yesterday is past, but let’s do it again and again.

Spring and Fall usually dominate the South in wonderful ways. Both seasons are long, slowly unfolding in relaxed measured ways. Each season is savored in the same easy manner as a tale told by a wizened southern gentleman or gracious lady. In spring, trees and flowers bud and blossom week by lazy week like a long complex story full of suspense and satisfaction told in chapters over days or weeks. Same in the fall with hillsides and fields taking on new colors as the the days shorten and winter slowly approaches.

But we are not there yet. This season is stuck on Winter. Again a term used loosely. No snow this “winter” has accumulated. No sparkling morning with snow clinging to branches and fields. There was one “freeze” day when the public school closed, because it was just too darn cold to send the kids out. The public school gurus feared a rash of frozen children would be found clutching their lunchboxes and notebooks expired at their designated bus stops, waiting for a ride that was delayed due to over-coldness. What? Instead the hordes of children and mothers stayed at home, together inside staring at electronic screens or worse: the southern version of cabin fever.

Usually I am sad to see the cold recede. I cling to the cold hoping for more crisp days and chilling nights. I pray for enough freezing temperatures to assure a good showing of tulips, a lovely product of a harsh climate. I fear the torrid sticky heat of summer. But not now. It is Ground Hog day again. The same gray day, the same chores, the same, ugh, errands. When will it end?

Occasionally the sun does come out. What a blessings! I get my garden gloves on, my mucky boots and I am out to attend my little plot of dirt heaven. It will be an all day event I decide, preparing beds, snipping back dead branches and raking out unwanted leaves. Turn the soil, loosen the clumps, and get ready for Spring! In 30 minutes, my fingers are frozen with a stiffness that brings to mind the word “frostbite” or the phase “concrete setting up”. My back hurts; my insulated mug of tea is a slushy. I am going in for a hot shower. Usually I embraced the season here, but now I am done. I am not a wimp, but this is too much. In the Rockies it is cold, but the summer is without a plague of humidity and insects, a reasonable trade-off. But not this. Give me Spring. I want a sign.

Tonight the pansies I planted in my boxes and buckets in an act of hope are wilted. I am torturing them. The daffodils droop. I see the buds swelling on my favorite trees and new growth peeking out with expectation on many of my darling plantings. My cynicism shouts at them. “Curl up! heads down, pull in! The next freeze is upon us!” But no, the plants are ready to come out as well. Hope does spring eternal. How ironic. The new season is on its way. It will falter and come up short. Tender green shoots will wither. But eventually it will come together. Please?

Tomorrow I will cut all the daffodils that have foolishly shown there pretty heads too early this year. And I eventually, will be able to fold away the bland colored sweaters of winter. Tuck away the fuzzy socks and high necked under shirts. Soon no more lacing up shoes stuffed with feet covered in thick wooly socks. People will smile and head to the farmer’s markets and flower nurseries to select new babies to replant, refresh and bring in the new season.

I need to remember that the leaves on the trees have never let us down. Ever. I am ready. Past ready.

Bring it on.


“Fresh Air Painting on the Mountain”

July 08 - July 12, 2024
Monteagle, Tennessee

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