The Color of Happiness in Winter is Gray

IMG_3513Three times this winter the clouds have cleared and the sun has shown brightly for days at a time. The sky is a cool blue and the light has a soft golden color. The air smells biting and fresh. The kids can play outside. I can’t stand it!

This kind of weather weighs the dew down into frost, which covers the grass and all of the plants in the garden. Many are protected by trees, but several more marginally hardy kinds aren’t. I have about ten of those. During the cold, their leaves fold down into themselves, their leaves droop against their branches, their leaves turn into mush. Most of them I cover with sheets, which helps somewhat, but during this last stretch of frigidity, I didn’t. With the holiday events happening, I missed the window and once I missed the window, I let the plants fend for themselves. They all already had ice on their leaves and I had worried that if I covered them while they held ice, I’d just be trapping cold moisture that would rot the leaves.

Every clear morning, I wake up worried about how they’re doing. I look out the window, check how many leaves have dropped and how many have turned brown. Each late afternoon as the sun sets, I check the weather to see what temperature it is at five o’clock, so I can estimate what the true low for my property will be. It’s always four or five degrees lower than the National Weather Service forecasts. As low as twenty-two, twenty-three degrees, which for the Pacific Northwest is unusual. And of course, pockets in the garden, shadowed by the house or trees, are an entire zone lower than other areas of the garden. I lie down at night with my stomach in a knot. The plants must be crushed by the cold. They’re suffering. Some are dying. I imagine them shivering, exposed to the cold moisture from the sky. They don’t like the frigid weather and neither do I.

After several days, the weather finally changes. Now, the cloudy skies and mild temperatures are back. Highs of forty-five degrees, lows in the high thirties. Nothing to worry about. I feel relief. Lighter. Happier. The threat of frost has been lifted. I can work outside again. Gray skies are back overhead. It’s light-jacket cool. The rain steadily taps down. Just how all of us living things accustomed to these parts like it.

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