We are rounding January's final corner, heading into February. The yards and gardens are a tapestry of brown and tan, widely flecked with green. Master Cardinal sews a scalloped red thread from bush to tree to feeder. This, the second month, is a tease for us living on the plains of Oklahoma. Let me explain.
We have had a bit of ice and snow, temperatures dropping into the single digits and staying there for days. We have lost power, lit the lamps, eaten our stews and soups with cornbread, and huddled under quilts around the fireplace glow. We have chopped ice so livestock could drink, and hauled bales of hay to their pastures, we have blanketed horses and warmed water for everything, we have trudged to the chores wreathed in our own frozen breath for some time. The little birds have been kept fed. We feel we have 'done Winter' for the year. (I realize how ridiculous that sounds to those who live to the north or us, or in the mountains where winter may stay for most of the year. But here on the southern plains, where we have four fairly equal length seasons, that is the way we see it.)
Then February comes waltzing in, wearing a long, brown skirt and a bright Robin-colored scarf, the sunlight glinting off her tawny hair. We smile, relax our shoulders and entertain outlandishly hopeful thoughts such as--Ah, we are past the worst of it now.--
February winks and grins, laughs at Daffodils pushing their pointy green caps up out of the mulch. She is a shameless flirt and wildly unpredictable. Often, let me go out on a limb and say most years, she waits until we actually begin to believe that warmth is coming back sooner than usual, until we have actually begun stirring the soil a bit and clearing away some debris in the gardens, and then she coyly arches a brow and slants her eyes toward the north. Suddenly chilled, we look up from our spades, turn, and see snow clouds, purple on the horizon.
The worst winter storms I have ever experienced have come in February. She has lost my trust and affections completely and forever. I remain hunched over my hot tea, and watch as she works her magic on the unsuspecting. You, my dear, are no lady.
I am on to your tricks, Madame: heavy coats remain draped over the backs of chairs, here at the farm, warm scarves and gloves come with me everywhere, I have three different weights of jackets in the car, snow boots and blankets in the trunk, just in case the weather turns. It is not, in fact, my first rodeo. Six more weeks, and possibly a bit more, and maybe then we will politely usher Dame Winter to the door and bid her adieu.