The Heart Of Winter

It was cold this week, and it reminded me of the poem by Robert Service about the prospector in the Yukon who “hated the cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell.”

It is true that I don’t like the cold anymore. Yet, I am also gripped like a “spell” when it comes to experiencing the heart of winter here in Chautauqua County. The snow falls and covers the land like a blanket. Everything is covered in white.

Compare that to March (next month) when the snow will start to melt, and we will start to see all of the junk reappear that we forgot to put away last fall, and the snow becomes a brownish color. I must admit that I like February, the heart of winter, better.

A friend of mine told me what it was like on the ice last week-end in Mayville. He went fishing and stayed inside his new pop-up tent for a few hours. When he got ready to go home, there was a blizzard going on and he could barely see shore from where he was on the ice. Yet, by the time he drove to Jamestown, the snow storm had subsided.

I said to him: “Welcome to the Chautauqua Ridge and lake effect snow coming off Lake Erie!” Lake effect snow–it is a part of what causes us to be caught up in a “spell” up here in the hills this time of year.

Another phenomenon of winter is seeing the woods open up. In the summer, from our house, you can’t see far down the lake because of the leaves and foliage of the woods. But now, with just the trees and snow, we can see down the whole length of the bay.

I have noticed that the dog is barking more. I think it is related to the fact that he can now see much more of what is going on around him. Any movement in the woods or a car coming down a far driveway, is picked up by his eyes, perks his ears, stimulates his protective instincts and, though told not to do so, he starts to bark.

His barking is more noticeable, of course, because it interrupts the deep quiet of winter. The hub-bub of the holidays is over, the pressure is gone to decorate and congregate, and we are now at one with the elements. There is a peace and solemnity to it all.

And, yes, there is that one, yearly, symbolic action that lets you know you are in the “heart of winter”–the appearance of the jig saw puzzle. Somehow, we seem to get more of them as we get older, and they sit on the table right in front of the window waiting to be assembled and solved. Wiling away your day dealing with a jig saw puzzle and looking out on the lake–how does it get any better than that?

Celebrating the heart of winter in Chautauqua County–it is a good place to be!

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.


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