The Relenting Winter

November storm.
November storm.

The winter’s weather is muted, like my cancer. You expect its harshness, you prepare for it, but sometimes it doesn’t assert itself. In mid-November, a cold snap blistered the orchard and deciduous trees in the Hood River Valley. Many had yet to lose their leaves. The cold’s sudden arrival plunged deep into the autumn soil and receptive bark. Come spring, we can assess the damage.

Snow fell during this storm. I shoveled our small driveway and cleared the mailbox. But it didn’t last. Warmer weather and rain returned and by Thanksgiving, winter’s retreat surprised us long time residents.

I missed that holiday’s gathering due to a nasty virus. Now, two months farther along, winter storms remain conspicuous in their absence. Once again, I became sick with a bug and just enough of a fever to make my creaky bones ache. Saturday, a week ago, I thrashed about in bed all day. Sunday, things improved. Now, a troubling cough lingers.

I wonder if some sub-zero temperatures wouldn’t kill the microbes that keep shredding my immune system. The 10-day forecast, though, is for unusually mild weather. Last week, as I pushed my granddaughter in her stroller, I noticed budding on some ornamental trees. “Ominous,” I remarked to my wife.

The natural world, though, does not watch the calendar. Using its history to predict its future is an unreliable entertainment. That’s why our antennae prickle when the expectation for nature’s repose and rebirth is disrupted.

Uncharacteristic weather for January
Uncharacteristic weather for January

Yesterday, temperatures rose to near 70 degrees, an unusual phenomenon for January. I asked local farmers about the effects of the early, bitter cold and the unusually mild winter afterwards. Their livelihoods are tied to normal conditions. So, of course, they speak of the season’s gentleness with foreboding.

Nonetheless, I take advantage of what nature offers. At this time of year, I’m normally holed up tending the wood stove with my nap buddy, Spanky the cat. Surprisingly, however, I am playing golf with friends.

We walk in circles around the mucky track. Sunshine soothes the stiffness in our shoulders. We feel younger even though I cough like a 50-year smoker. My pals wonder about my health but all is well. It’s just, I think, the weather.

P.S. Two things. I strongly recommend the book, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Also, I’ve written some memoir about a neighborhood I lived in with my birth family. Links to Southwood, A Memoir are in the menus.

7 thoughts on “The Relenting Winter

  1. A biologist once told me that a cold winter is needed to kill the bacteria, viruses, and (most importantly) the mold. We underestimate just how much damage mold can do, and often our colds/flus are aggravated by or even caused by it. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a cold snap just as the trees are beginning to blossom.


  2. John – This piece has so much loveliness I couldn’t begin to choose a favorite line, a favorite image. It all just moves together beautifully, and tastes so delicious.


  3. I’ve been thinking about this piece since I first read it. The weather certainly doesn’t have a calendar. And frankly, as a survivor myself, I tend to look more at seasons these days. That’s the way the year is divided up for me. Time changes and moves…I try to pay attention…thanks for your inspiring thoughts on this and all things…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi John,
    I have just found your blog and busy catching up on your story. You write beautifully!
    We are from Cape Town, South Africa and my husband, Jimmy, has just had his stem cell transplant. He is in his 4th week in isolation at the moment.
    These blogs I follow and as with yours have been such a help in knowing what to expect, well sort of. At least I know I am not losing the plot.
    Lovely to meet you.
    Take care,


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