It was a long and snowy winter in my neck of the Rocky Mountains this past winter. Now that I get out and enjoy winter sports: skiing (downhill, XC, and backcountry), snowshoeing, winter hiking and running I don’t dread the winters like I did when I first moved to the West 15+ years ago. The long, cold nights just mean more time spent in front of the wood stove with my loved ones, knitting, reading, blogging (or in rare instances, working). So for me, winter sped by and now suddenly it’s spring! Not everyone shares my views on winter–for many of my neighbors this was the “winter from hell.” But I appreciate the fact that I live in a place that actually has seasons. The actual 4 seasons you learn in grade school: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Where I grew up in the South, our 4 seasons consisted of The Gray-Brown season, Tornado season, Hot & Humid season, and Football season. And if you are familiar with the South, you know there are lots of bugs there. LOTS of bugs. Bugs that bite you. Bugs that bite your dog. Bugs that eat your garden. There just isn’t a cold enough winter to kill off all the bugs. But here in the Mountain West? It gets COLD in winter! True, snow is an excellent insulator, and a deep blanket of snow plus -20 degrees does not equal death to all bugs, but it will definitely knock them back a little bit. So while I can’t grow a lemon tree outside in my yard (I do grow lemons in containers, though) I also don’t have to worry about cutworms gnawing through my tomato seedlings. Priorities.
Now that it is late April, spring seems to have finally made her way into my part of the world. The days are longer. The sun is shining more. The days are finally warming up! The spring rebirth has begun: my garden is awakening and I am already eating green onions. Asparagus has begun to pop up and my globe artichoke survived its 2nd winter, despite the fact that it supposedly is only hardy to Zone 7 (I live in a Zone 4). See? That snow IS an excellent insulator! It won’t be long and I’ll be harvesting chives and oregano from the garden, fresh spinach, and maybe even morels again, if they decide to come back this year (fingers crossed!). It makes me happy to work out in my garden, get my hands dirty, cultivate my own food, and reconnect with the earth that sustains all of life. I feel privileged to have my own little plot of land–a place to put down some roots–not only to grow my own food, but to simply have a place to call home. A place to watch the changes of the seasons. I know at what time in the morning the sun hits my living room window in the dead of winter. I know where the snow melts first. And I know where the little hot microclimates are in my garden where I can place my tomatoes for that little extra boost of warmth during our short summers.
If it weren’t for the seasons, I wouldn’t know these things. Every day would be just like all the rest, all year long. I like to watch the sun move from the south side of my house in winter to the north side in the summer. I like knowing that by early February I can tell that the days are getting longer, which means spring is on its way. I love the long summer days that stretch on for an eternity. I love the smell of quaking aspen in the fall–and the golden color of the leaves is a sight to behold! I like curling up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, to read a book when a snowstorm is howling outside. Somehow the change of seasons helps keep me grounded. It must be evolutionarily ingrained in humans to acknowledge the seasons–our ancestors depended on cues from the changing seasons to tell them when to plant & harvest crops, after all. How do we depend on the seasons now? They signal when we can get really great deals on clearance–bathing suits, winter jackets, and shorts.
It may be a small thing, to be grateful for the changing seasons, but it’s big to me. I embrace each new season as a new beginning–my gardening changes through the seasons, my hobbies change throughout the season, my cooking changes with the seasons, my jobs actually change through the seasons because of field work, thus my life never gets boring or in a rut. And that’s something to be very thankful for.