Snow brings out the birds. Cardinals and woodpeckers trace arcs from branch to ground. Sparrows dust up white powder in search of something beneath. A chickadee perches atop dogwood twigs in Meadow Nord. It’s cold and soon to be colder. This December has been a case study in the vagaries of Iowa weather. On December 3 it was 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday, it snowed with temperatures hovering in the teens. Tomorrow night temperatures are expected to drop below our winter minimum for Zone 5b to somewhere around -20 degrees Fahrenheit, just in time for New Year’s Day. What I would have given for this meteorological energy three weeks ago. The land could’ve used the rain more than this snow. But praise be the snow. My new plantings need the insulation.
Despite political proclamations, climate change isn’t just about temperature today. The conversation about climate change is a long-tail study in the disruption of norms and patterns, even as the human scale to this argument is inarguably brief. This wobbly reality is the new norm. It seems the winter of 2017-2018 will earn a place in recent history as having begun bitterly. Just please make it brief.
In the meantime, my thoughts drift to the biological minutia of the underground world. The sugars and native anti-freeze properties accumulated in plant cells to help them survive the winter. The overwintering insects burrowed into the remnant stems of grasses, making for proverbial cryogenic condos. The roots emanating from the bulb plates of the few alliums I tucked into the ground, the support system to the inherent flowering display tucked away beneath its scales. Winter is the ultimate conditioner, a vernalizing and stratifying force.