The midwinter bleak

Alice McDermott: Late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair? God Himself was helpless against it.

My “bleak” began in early December.

Who took away the sun? And when does the snow end? It wasn’t mid-month even and I’d measured close to three feet of the stuff.

I rejoice when the skies brighten and can claim to see a white blob somewhere up there in the sky — only that disappears before I am able to share the news.

No. The weather may be bleak and my scurrying around to turn on even more lights than I really need by mid-afternoon does indicate my body’s desire for more bright than it’s getting. But depression?

Hardly. The wonders around me continue to multiply.

I just happened to look up when passing the bathroom window (and, yes, I know: things like that don’t “just happen”). There hung a large branch — in midair! Well, it certainly wasn’t attached to its tree anymore. I’ve pictures now to attest to that. The answer is obvious: some time, probably in one of those high winds we’ve seen so many of this year, it broke away from its tree. Instead of falling, it became enmeshed in surrounding branches. It will eventually fall. I like it for now for I can check often just to see if my “magic” branch still hangs there. Maybe it did get stuck on some of the branches around it. Or perhaps not. It’s magic to me.

Then there’s the lemon tree. Wide-spreading blossoms appeared on two branches. Most fall off before little lemons start to appear but the flowers will brighten my day — and renew my hopes that this time I may harvest one, or even two, of those special lemons. The fruits, when they do appear, are huge (compared to the lemons I see in the stores) and so very much sweeter. No miracle there. Then again, what else should we call growth?

I rescued a miniature rose that sat neglected all summer. Suffering worse than neglect, actually, for its pot couldn’t drain so its roots remained immersed with no possible relief.

It was pretty far gone. A friend told me there was no hope, the spindly little plant was destined to die. It’s been months. I allow it to share my table hoping that will give it even more encouragement. Most of its tiny branches have turned black and have had to be snipped off. But, by George, while none of the other budlets has done anything impressive, I do have four leaves out on one stem and the appearance of more to come.

An old very spindly mum suddenly produced buds and now gold blossoms. So long neglected, nobody even knows where it came from. I spotted the change. I watered it. I’ve enjoyed the flowers — and do promise, once it stops blooming, to give it a severe (but loving) haircut so, should it decide it likes my hospitality, next time it can appear more becoming.

Best of all perhaps, the hibiscus bloomed twice in rapid succession with temperatures chill enough the blossoms could hang on for a second day.

The dog is extremely house-trained as one would expect. With the thermometer already dropping into the teens, I was surprised to see cat Gloria walk out. Hurrah! I’m not wild about cleaning the litter box, especially in this weather. (And no, readers, she has no interest in birds. A chipmunk, mouse, just about anything she can catch and invite in is more to her liking.)

Admittedly, it’s probably time to put the vase of tulips and daffodils away — though I enjoy their bright colors.

Christmas decor was next.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. Her Reason for Being was published in 2008 with Love in Three Acts following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at