Saturday, February 2, 2013

February's Midwinter Spring

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.

From "Little Gidding," in the 
Four Quartets; T.S. Eliot

February in Oregon's Willamette Valley is often a time of graceful waiting. It is poised between the cold, wet of early winter and the blustery, gradually warmer rains of spring.  Many years there are long stretches of sun, softened by morning mists, warming the chilled and dull earth with wan rays of promises to be delivered on months later. But promises are often enough to pull one through dark times; and so it is with February's "midwinter spring."

Cycling this time of year has its rewards. Sunlight dries out the roads, making it all less dank and cheering the heart. The early morning cold gets less chilling. The fragrance of wood smoke from the glowing hearths one passes is pungent with memories of childhood firesides and winters long ago, but in later February this is often laced with the powerful aroma of daphne, rolling down into the street and drifting along in colorless clouded-- sometimes for a block or more when the air is just right.

The promise of a season of sun and warmth does indeed run deep on a sunny February day: but we know better. We have much to go through before we arrive at that oasis of calm, gathered around the chiminea late at night and watching sparks fly up towards the stars as we sip a glass of something aged and smooth.

Eliot asks later in this poem "Where now is the 'zero summer?'" Aye, where is it? Far away, we must conclude. The long nights make that evident.

But summer is not quite "unimaginable," as the poem has it. On a day like this, as I pedal  my way by the Capitol's limp flags, warmed by the rising angle of sun once more, I can imagine it...indeed.

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