The Winter Gods

Winter seems to have returned to central Utah. During several weeks of unseasonable warmth, grasses started to green and tulips threatened to unfurl from the dry soil. Tiny buds sprouted on the Chinese elms outside the house. We wore short sleeves and flip-flops, dabbing sweat from our brows. One exasperated friend took down all of her winter decorations, grumbling, “We haven’t even had the chance to make snow angels this year!”

I read updates from Boston, New York, and Chicago, and I cringed, not daring to draw attention to our weather situation while friends back East cursed the onslaught of yet another snowstorm. Locally, we scratched our heads and said things like, “Well, we can’t complain about this! and “This is incredible! It’s not January, it’s April!” But also: “What the hell is going on?” and “This summer will be awful!” Snow enthusiasts, lovers of nature, gardeners, and farmers alike implored the meteorological gods to return the snow to us. And, finally, last week, they did.

For me, the “heat wave” highlighted our dependence on the weather, the intricate web of causality that affects us where we live. Little or no snow in the high desert transforms the mountains into giant tinderboxes, acres and acres of trees ready to catch fire. Lack of snowmelt threatens the water supply, which impacts those who depend on water to grow their crops as well as those of us who don’t. No water means fewer foods to eat. The town grocery store posted a sign warning customers that, due to weather circumstances throughout the country, certain produce items may be intermittently available, if at all, which is of grave concern since my diet consists mainly of things that grow in the earth. We may have enjoyed a reprieve from the cold, but at what cost?

I worry when my region experiences summer in January and icy hailstorms in July. It distresses me when weather abandons seasonality and instead becomes a series of events and vortices. Shouldn’t changes in the atmosphere – isolated incidents, established patterns, and troublesome anomalies – warrant more consideration than just “small talk”? Every day I watch the sky in humble estimation of the greater forces in control.

On Monday, the winter gods rewarded our pleas with a dusting of light snow: just enough to sprinkle our shoulders as it melted from the trees; just enough to mute the ubiquitous brown sagebrush. We awoke the following day to a world in white. I think – I hope – that higher slopes are receiving even more snow. For this bounty, we bow our heads in gratitude and beg, “Please send more!”

© Julia Moris-Hartley, 2015

 

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