Old Man Winter.
While he arrives every year, this year he is belligerent. He is rude. He is stubborn. He is that guest at the party who rubs everyone the wrong way and seems to be waiting for you no matter what room you try to sneak away into. He’s that close talker with harsh breath who makes you wince whenever he is near.
I’ve tried seed catalogs for optimism. I’ve tried dog hikes in the sunshine. I’ve tried coffee and hot chocolate and beer. They all help for a few moments, and then I look out at his whipping wind dragging snow as a hostage and I long for the motherly days of ripening tomatoes and freshly cut grass.
Stock, though, always helps. There’s something about taking chicken and turkey bones saved in the frigid freezer, adding celery and carrots from the crisper drawer in the chilly fridge, selecting seemingly lifeless bay leaves and peppercorns from the dark cabinet, and pouring cold water from the frosty pipes, putting them all in a cold steel pot and then heating them to a near boil. There’s something about that pot then simmering for hours as the heat melts the flavors, makes them into something aromatic now, and flavorful later. There’s something about making something today that can warm the belly and soul for weeks to come, until March arrives with its hopeful longer days and heavy snow that can’t withstand the warming earth, the old man weakening.
I hold hope that this cold, cold winter demolishes bugs like mosquitoes and spring flu, that it does its job of forcing us all to slow down and rest, that it hands to spring and summer a clean canvas on which to paint.
I’m always amazed by nature and its power to do more than we can imagine possible. It’s been an impressive, humbling winter. But I’ve seen enough. That proclamation causes a cold cackle, no doubt, from Old Man Winter. So, better to huddle up with some warmed stock and wait for him to head out of town, which I know he’ll do on his own time, not mine.