“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”
Lady Bird Johnson
Midwestern winters require more than just the recommended fur-trimmed puffy coat. Dressing in warm layers is helpful. But, sometimes it’s simply not enough. I have learned over the last few years that it takes a certain amount of outrageous optimistic thinking to face a particularly cold and gray forecast.
I used to think news reports of people wearing flip flops while Christmas shopping in the snow and nearly naked people running into Lake Michigan for the polar bear plunge were crazy. However, now that I have lived here for a few years, I have come to realize that it’s precisely that type of thinking that is necessary to fully appreciate the mid-winter season.
There is a festiveness when it snows. The Christmas season in Chicago is magical. I love the twinkling lights and watching the snowflakes swirl in the air. My daughters and I enjoy making snow angels and creating little snowmen. The icy trees that line our street look serene as they shimmer in the light. But my personal enthusiasm towards the cold’s fragile beauty tends to wane a bit after January.
Last year when temperatures started to plunge towards record breaking lows, my young daughters were determined to take matters into their own hands. After several days of feeling trapped indoors by negative temperatures, they decided that we needed a change. Inspired by their favorite Disney snowman, they dressed up in sunglasses, sandals and Hawaiian leis. My husband and I loved every zany minute of their “In Summer” concert. Our daughters thawed our winter blues by singing their hearts out around their tiny toy microphone. Looking back, their impromptu concert is still one of our favorite winter memories.
Each year when late February comes, I look out at my snow covered lawn and long for green flower filled days. Every fall I begin planning for spring. So, after this year’s early Halloween snow I was out in my yard. I shoveled the snow and leaves aside. I dug and measured deep trenches in my flower beds. Then my daughters and I planted hundreds of bulbs with hopes of creating a gorgeous spring garden.
In the last few weeks I have found myself engaging in some nonsensical, but highly necessary optimistic thinking. I dream of summer gardens in the snow. I look out my window and think about the beauty of our yard dressed in its full colorful glory.
Perhaps spring is even more spectacular when it’s been months since something green has sprouted. As much as I lament the cold, I know the frozen ground is necessary for a whole host of beautiful bulbs and flowers. These plants would never thrive in the subtropical climate that I was formerly accustomed to. So now I am dreaming of snowdrops, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, pansies and peonies.
It may be February, but my mind is already planning and eagerly awaiting the garden to come. I am looking forward to planting again, savoring the sunshine and enjoying the blossom filled splendor of spring.