Skunk wafting on the wind is a scent I actually enjoy. There has been an especially strong aroma lingering around the back of the house for the last couple of weeks. Honestly, at first I thought either someone spilled a keg of beer in the road or it was the aroma of marijuana drifting over from the neighbor’s place……and if it was summertime, where everyone was out on their front porches or having barbeques in the back yards, it might have been one or the other. But we are surrounded by feet of snow at the moment. And I happen to know that this time of the year – around February/March actually – is skunk mating season. With a gestational period of sixty-six days, that brings their litters right into spring.
The skunks on those vintage valentine cards (vintage now being my childhood)….did anyone ever wonder what skunks had to do with amour? It is because that is the time when the skunks are out seeking love. And probably getting run over in the road while doing it. I read that somewhere, really! It is one of those pieces of trivia that continues to swirl around in my brain. So in a way, they are a very early harbinger of Spring. A scent of hope. And for people like me, who really and truly enjoy a light tinge of skunk in the air, it evokes pleasant memories.
But my intention today is not to write about animal husbandry, but about this Endless Winter that is Almost Over. It seems like every few days here in the northeast we get hit with a few more inches of snow. And in between the snow there is ice; lots and lots of ice. And along with that there have been weeks where the temps did not get above freezing and long stretches where the thermometer read sub-zero digits.
I was priding myself on how well I was navigating The Endless Winter. This one was going to be a relative breeze. Commuting is no longer an issue for me – that long ride over the bridge and down slushy, winding two lane roads is over. Working outside in the elements is also now a thing of the past. Every time I see a highway sander or snowplow go by, I silently thank the Universe that it is no longer me riding in one. And I thank those that are out there doing it too.
Because I now have this small dog and do not have an enclosed area to let him out into, it means having to walk him multiple times a day. I got myself a pair of ice cleats, making these enforced excursions more of a sure-footed adventure. All bundled up in multiple layers; colorful ski hats with pom-poms, sweatshirts, vests, sweaters and scarves, the S.O.’s giant down coat over it all, and especially my mother’s boots, which have been worn daily this entire long season, keeping my feet “warm as toast”, I have been out at a variety of odd times and am surprised to admit having enjoyed those moments. There is something magical about walking late at night in a snowstorm, or being the first set of footprints in the quiet blue dawn amidst newly fallen snow.
Even when it got down to sixteen degrees below zero here one early morning, everything seemed doable. The house was warm. The street lamps dazzled with illuminated flakes and ice crystals. Lights from the house windows cast a warm glow. Snow blowers sent impressive arcs of white up into the sky. My indoor houseplants bloomed and lent a contrast of color. Winter sunsets glowed pink and orange through frosted windows.
Friends and family that have been enjoying the sunny beaches of Florida, southern California, Oman, Goa, Puerto Rico…..posting photos of surf, sun, sand…..none of this seemed to bother me, and I impressed myself with what I imagined was good ol’ northern resilience. I hunkered down and baked brownies, super-duper healthy hippie coconut oatmeal cookies and ginger snaps embedded with chocolate chips.
I cooked stews and healthy soups, whipped up lots of spicy Indian dal, roasted fragrant rosemary chicken, warm breads sprinkled with herbs, brews of hot cocoa, chai, buttered rum. Cozy under a blanket, I watched movies, read books, crocheted.
I was seriously rocking winter and feeling pretty smug about it. But then I smelled that skunk, and it all went out the window, abruptly ending this winning winter streak.
The sidewalks and driveway are covered in small glaciers and patches of black ice, a perfect slip-and-fall scenario waiting to happen. There is no place to safely ambulate – all you can do is shuffle.
Even the dog does not want to walk anywhere, and I find myself shivering and muttering “Hurry up, hurry up, HURRY UP!!!!” while he balances, splay-footed, sniffing dog-pee accented corridors of three-foot high soot-gray mountains.
My car looks like a salt-encrusted pumpkin seed, wiper blades shredded after being frozen to the glass. The front bumper is now cracked and one fog-light housing has fallen off after striking the corner of a snow-bank while trying to navigate around it.
I need to get out and walk, to smell earth and green things, to walk barefoot in the sand and feel warm sun on skin. It is official – having joined the ranks of the rest of the bleary-eyed, winter-punchy people around here I admit defeat. Essentially, I am done. It took just a whiff of skunk to change an entire mindset.