February was a killer back then. More than a half-century encompassed my life in the parts of the United States where I grew up and spent most of my career, namely the northern edge of Tennessee and three states across the Midwest—Illinois, Ohio, and Nebraska. February was typically the month that tested my soul, the month when the feeling that winter would never end enveloped me. The shortest month of twenty-eight days seemed to drag on twice as long. Would spring ever come?
Many of the winters were memorable for spectacularly beautiful, pristine snows and glistening ice on trees when the sky cleared after ice storms. Nature shows her beauty in countless ways, and winter scenes rank right up there with the most dazzling ones.
But February made me hate winters. I grew weary of the chill, gray skies, north winds, slush, mud, cold feet and fingers, and my ever-present runny nose in cold weather. February tried my soul in all those years.
In the years leading up to our retirement from academic careers, Ellen shared many of the anti-winter feelings I still have. She had good reason to feel that way. She spent the first four decades of her life growing up and working in Chicago—a place famous for wind tunnels down the streets that gain force from the tall skyscrapers, a place where you have to sometimes lean into the wind to keep your balance on sidewalks that are often treacherously slick from compacted, gray snow and ice.
So, early in our retirement, we moved to Austin, Texas, to be near my daughter and son-in-law. After nearly a dozen years here, we appreciate our mild winters, although the one just passed was one of the coldest on record, as has been the case in many parts of the country. This winter in Austin has had many of us grousing about the cold, Ellen and I among them.
This past Monday, February 17, was a brilliant and radiant spring day here. It felt like Camelot had returned. To celebrate the day, after lunch we drove to Waterloo Ice House near our home and ordered a sinfully delicious slice of Mile High Mousse Pie to share. We dove into it and reduced it to crumbs before it occurred to me that we should have taken a picture of it.
As we sat by a window overlooking a playground and an outdoor eating area, Ellen noticed a young mother standing in the sun, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and reading a book as her child or children played nearby. I managed to get some additional photos of the scene outside our window that I have posted here.
Every February since we have been in Austin, unofficial spring arrives. It is uplifting and exciting. It is an early gift of nature, evidence of renewed life.
Spring comes in February here. Now each winter brings the hope of February, not the dread of it. Neighbors to the north will experience spring in March, April, May, or farther north, in June, as the earth tilts more on its axis.
Whenever it arrives in various places, it’s good to leave the heavy coats in the closet. Good to wear a shirt outdoors. Even better to don a T-shirt and savor the sun.
February is no longer a killer. I’m a happy and grateful camper on this warm and sunny February day, a beautiful Friday afternoon.
If you’re not into spring yet, hang in there. Spring is coming.