Winter’s softer edges

Winter hardens us. Not only the icicles are brittle.

A few hours of warm sun in late February, therefore, can loosen up the spirit as well as shrink the snow piles. One of my favorite concepts from middle school science class is sublimation, or the transition of a solid to a gas without passing through the intermediate phase, liquid. That’s what the snow does on warmer days: sublimates. (Some readers may prefer Freud’s use of the term to describe a particular kind of defense mechanism. It would be interesting to see if we could get those two definitions in alignment.)

As the snow disappears without leaving many wet patches, signs of life reappear. The world is not dead under snow, as I noticed in a walk around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon.

The moss is profuse and verdant and, when I put my hand on it, springy.

moss on a big puddingstone boulder

The lamb’s ears, though I have never grown this perennial myself, are vital and very soft.

lamb's ears on neighbor's stone wall

And this little creature — a mole that I did not touch although I did speak to her — looks silky. Slit-eyed, she poked around the edges of the snow for a while, nibbling at acorn caps and looking for a way back into the ground.

Why do I call her a she? To me, the underside of her belly looked swollen and dotted with teats. Yet perhaps my imagination put them there, looking for even more signs of a coming spring.

4 thoughts on “Winter’s softer edges

  1. Jane, I like this post and it reminds me of a Gretel Ehrlich piece “The Smooth Skull of Winter.” It’s in _The Solace of Open Spaces_. Do you know it? If you want to see it, I’ll PDF it for you next week and send it to you. A

  2. I adore moss. Is that strange? I love the color and texture and springiness under your feet. I’ve been cultivating moss in the yard because it is so beautiful and verdant practically all year around in these parts. So far about a 1/4 of the grass has been taken over by it, which makes yard maintenance much easier, too.

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