Passing heavy snow shower reminds us how much worse this winter could have been.

Winter has seemed relatively mild, in spite of an occasional visit by the polar vortex.  Only major snow near Thanksgiving, ongoing a less-than-half-normal amount.  There remains lots of time, but with equinox peeking around the corner of the next month, the length of days and angle of sun would already make lingering snow cover for weeks unlikely.

The harbor has never actually frozen over, certainly no mini-icebergs.  A few times the fresh water floating on top from shore seepage has formed a light skim, and once or twice severe cold with wind froze even salt spray on the docks.  But those times have been few and far between, and Huntington remains an ice-free port.

On the other hand, for our own extended family, seasonal illnesses seem to have been circulating since early December without letup.  Flu or norovirus or something unnamed is always being fought off, coming on, being endured, clearing up, or finally gone.  With toddlers, young adults in health professions, and elders who like to shop, it seems that someone has always had something to donate to the stew for the next round.   Being stuck inside together all day in extremely dry heat doesn’t help.

The famous “Blizzard of 1888” didn’t come along until March 11 of an unusually mild winter, so nothing is certain about the rest of this season.

Nature even seems to be holding back.  There are far fewer birds than normal in the local waters, not even so many at my backyard feeder.  Only squirrels seem up to their regular numbers.  I only hope that avian crowds have found more congenial spots somewhere else, and that our empty waves do not portend something worse.

Often by now, a “January thaw” or some other week of warmth would have started bulb shoots and some buds well on their way, might have slightly greened grass.  Not this year, all remains brown and seemingly lifeless.  A few snowdrops at the end of the driveway are doing their best, and I shall cut my traditional forsythia branches to force indoors, but I’ve seen mid-February’s with a lot more signs of spring.

Hard to remember this beach packed with blankets, bikinis, teens, toddlers, parents, and elders as it will be again in a few months.

In dead of winter, especially when health is shaky, I find it too easy to sink inward and forget spring is coming followed by long seasons of summer and fall.  Retired, I read and eat and perform repetitive tasks each day, so that all days seem like the same day.   Getting dressed and going into the chill is an adventure. Another cycle has begun, and its progression will eventually seep into my bones, then flow into my soul. 

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