Freezing Time

The anchors on the early morning television news were discussing Groundhog Day this morning; the weatherman suggesting that the groundhog might see his shadow, the peppy young anchors cheering the idea on, advocating for spring.

I’m rooting for six more weeks of winter.

These past few weekends, when it’s gotten into the 40s, have had us scrambling to get the sugarwoods up and running. We’ll start tapping this week, and I could really use another month of prep time. If it’s been too cold to work plastic, I’ve been working wood, trying to get next year’s firewood down and pulled to a landing and bucked so I can have it split and curing by the time the apple blossom’s break. I’m late, I know. I try to be a year ahead, but this past year has been one of those years.

The getting-higher-by-the-day light, the swelling red maple buds, the pull of late-winter work that sucks us in, swirls us around, and spits us out when the leaves have broken makes me wish there was another month between January and February, or at least a half a month. I don’t know if this is just me getting older and busier, or if it’s an unconscious reflection of the time we’re losing and have lost off our winters as the planet warms, but there seems to never be enough time in winter anymore.

It makes me nostalgic for the deep cold even as the deep cold season hasn’t yet passed. The riven black ice on the streambed boulders, the diamond-cut crystals on the snowpack’s surface, even that ice on the inside corners of the uninsulated window panes that swirls like the ornamental paper in the front of old books.

This ice freezes objects, but also, in its way, freezes time. We all slow down, at peace with being unproductive. A Saturday morning might linger over coffee. An afternoon might devolve into a book, our backs against a glowing woodstove. Maybe we get to see each other – conversation instead of working in the woods until dark.

In the natural world there are plants that need winter’s cold and a period of dormancy to thrive. I think the same can probably be said for people.

  1. Mike Van Dyke → in Randolph, VT
    Feb 02, 2018

    Around here, everything is frozen solid so that it’s almost impossible to get out and do anything.  My spiked shoes , snowshoes and Yak Trax don’t even do the job so it seems like a time for hibernation.  Think I’ll go take a nap!

  2. Richard A. Hesslein Jr. → in Bethel, Maine 04217
    Feb 02, 2018

    I am gratefull for my partial retirement that allows me to persue my favorite winter recreations of backcountry skiing and nordic ice skate touring and exploring, both of which have had fairly spectacular windows this season so far…we’ll have to see what’s in store for Feb., Mar., and beyond….I am not near ready to give up on winter!

  3. Bill Torrey → in West Bolton, VT
    Feb 02, 2018


    I’ve been working off and on the last month at a sugaring operation of 27,000 taps in Underhill. Been tapping for weeks now to get done in time. I was coming out of the woods last night, watching the sunset over the Adirondacks and I realized it was well past five o’clock and it was still light. It was not only a wonderful view, but also a cheering feeling of satisfaction to spend a day in the winter woods and know that spring would be here soon enough. The changes of the seasons is one of the holds that Vermont has on me. And as I age, I find it easier and comforting to revel in each one as it comes and goes. I wouldn’t say I want winter to last longer. Sometime I think God made March in case eternity proves too brief. But I know that each winter here is one that adds to my list of challenges met, and memories to cherish.

    Hoping the Sap is Sweet,


  4. Elinor Osborn → in Craftsbury, VT
    Feb 02, 2018

    Yes, to more real winter with fresh snow, not rain. Real winter is beautiful.

  5. Stephen Rubino → in Andover Vermont
    Feb 03, 2018

    Pitch perfect as I “linger over coffee… with my back to the wood stove.”

    Enjoyed it immensely.

  6. Timothy S Colman → in Seattle
    Feb 05, 2018

    Keep writing.  Sweet passage on time travel in this season.  Never thought of needing another month between Jan/Feb—already the longest month of my year.

  7. Michael Welshko → in Earlville, NY
    Feb 07, 2018

    Your takes on the winter season is spot on. After a busy fall of wood cutting, deer hunting and putting the garden to bed I also look forward to “dormancy” of early winter. Soon after New Years it is time to get back at it, however the weather doesn’t always cooperate. I would love another few weeks at least of frozen ground, with a few inches of snow on the ground and temps in the low to mid twenties.

  8. Loree Havel → in Western Oregon
    Feb 08, 2018

    I started some indoor projects this winter season only to be lured outside with the unusually warm weather flowing down the west coast.  Yikes - time to prune fruit trees & harvest the earliest greens.Thanks all for expressing the nostalgia for winter so poetically.

  9. Carolyn → in East Wallingford, VT
    Feb 12, 2018

    I sooooooo enjoy winter for its slower pace and fewer distractions.

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