Saturday, 17 February 2018

The February Thaw

It’s only February
It’s the annual February thaw
It’s only February
It’s the annual February thaw

It’s the mantra I mutter these days.

The sun is rising earlier and setting later and, once more, I can noticeably feel the sun on my face and soaking through my dark clothes, without that same lovely heat being ripped away from me by bitter winds. I like the cold but even I must admit that there is a time and place for it.

The annual Ottawa thaw—those few days or week when Mother Nature goes away on vacation, leaving one of her children in charge—usually happens in February. Maybe there are better travel deals in February. When she comes back, as she always does, we’ll be walloped with snow, or an ice storm, or some new hell she picked up in the Caribbean. Like the Sword of Damocles, you fear that when this warm spot of weather suddenly, inevitably ends, it will come crashing down and split you in two.

But the annual thaw is also a time for hope and planning. It’s the time I start looking through my last two years’ of gardening and foraging data, such as it is. Considering how well organized I am in other areas, I still keep this information the old fashioned way, handwritten, and mostly messily at that, in a notebook. A reproduction of a Picasso line drawing is on the cover.

SIDE BAR: There are two things that come to mind when I think of Picasso.

The first is the time my friend Barb and I went to Montreal to see an exhibit of what we delighted in calling “smutty Picasso.” It was a collection of his more sexually explicit pieces, explicit enough for an R-rating so kids weren’t allowed in. A pity, ‘cause Barb and I giggled through much of it—many of the drawings and paintings were hysterically funny. Say what you want about old Pablo, he had a good sense of humour—and we could have hidden our laughter amidst a loud gaggle of small children who hadn’t yet been fitted with their social filters and would undoubtedly be pointing at various body bits and saying things like: “That doesn’t look like mine!”

The second thing I think of when I think of Picasso is the song Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole by The Modern Lovers. The song is very catchy and I highly recommend you go seek it out. It’s on the soundtrack for Repo Man, the movie that gave us such quotable gems as “The more you drive the stupider you are,” and “Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate ‘em.”

SIDE BAR TO THE SIDEBAR: I’ve decided not to link to anything in this article. If you’re interested enough in something I mention, like a song or movie title or a quote or a plant, you’ll go find out all about it yourself. Why should I give you free research? Use that delightful coconut of yours.

SIDE BAR TO THE SIDEBAR TO THE SIDEBAR: I’m quite sure there is at least one city in the world, a city with a lot of lawyers in it, that has a bar called The Side Bar. It’d only make sense.

So anyway...

As I said, it’s that time of year that I become consumed with plant thoughts. Will the fiddleheads and knotweed come up early like they did last year? Who knows? It’s fun
Fiddleheads remind me
of the novel
The Day of the Triffids
by John Wyndham
to look out my back porch and dream of the day when the first tight spirals poke out of the mulch in the strip of shaded soil along the back fence.

(Today, to satisfy my urge to dig in the dirt, I cleaned up a few houseplants, mulched, watered, and generally made them more comfortable.)

I reviewed my notebook to see which plants came up when in 2017 and in 2016. I noted all these plants on a new page, and gave rough estimates on when certain plants would first appear. I looked for any weather records. Usually, these records are kept in other notebooks, but sometimes I jot down observations.

It never ceases to amaze me how one good rainstorm and a day of high temperatures can send plants into an embarrassing orgy of growth.

It never ceases to amaze me that I can harvest so much free food so much closer to my kitchen than any grocery store.

Perhaps I’m easily amazed. I’m happy to be so with things as simple and complicated as new life, food, and the ever-changing weather.

None of this makes any difference to the February thaw. Ma Nature will be back soon enough and show her wayward child what winter’s all about. She’ll probably give the March lion less meat, just to make him mean.

The February thaw makes me itchy with anticipation. Itchy like a dog until it can roll, blissfully, in sweet, fresh grass. I want to feel the sun more, smell the ground thaw, and see the plants return. I salivate over thoughts of spring greens, fried up with butter and garlic, or whizzed into pesto.

I can think of worse things to be obsessed with. Still, it won’t hurt to maintain my mantra muttering for a while longer. For my own sanity. Happy February thaw everyone.

February 17, 2018
Ottawa, Ontario
4:45 pm, -1° C

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