Tuesday, May 13, 2008


In most cities, the spirits that govern the weather cooperate. Autumn hands Winter the silvery clouds of November to wear as a sleek cloak. Winter conjures an icy tongue of sunlight for Spring to fan and nurture into the warmth of April. In this way, the game of seasons is typically played like a relay race.

In our dichromatic city, the seasons become contests of will. Our spirits are miserly and competitive, hording their tenure and releasing them only with a final, defeated breath. Never willingly do they relinquish dominion; only with a fight. For weeks they battle, and the seasons are held in uneasy stalemate, weather swinging wildly or paralyzed into stasis, as if by magic. The weather spirits of Oregon are brawlers, cutthroats, and thugs and the only language they know is a ballled-up fist.

The best contest of the year—the heavyweight championship—pits Winter against Spring. The dark lady manages her regime with a legion of clouds. For months, they lock arms and huddle over the sodden town, muscling the sun out of the sky. Winter does not punish the citizens with cold, but the presence of her minions, like police from a lost Communist state, bully us with constancy. They are there always, like microphones in the wall; we don’t have the stamina to pay constant attention, but we chafe at their intimidation.

Sun negotiates with the winter spirit for only the barest moments’ reprieve; almost immediately the clouds return, shoving those of us who were bidden out back indoors. “Nothing to see here; let’s move it along.”

But the clouds don’t control their own destiny. They can’t help but condense from time to time, and they water the earth. This is their doom. Spring resides in the plants, and she is nurtured by the wet. With the daffodils that push up, gamely into the damp and cold, she rises in February to begin her battle. Winter, who oppresses us with her clouds, watches as her success blossoms into rebellion below.

Winter, who is chided in December by the spirits in more hardy climates for her leniency, laughs back at them months later. In places like Chicago and New York City Winter is more punishing. But by April, those stern Winters are making plans for an orderly transition; in Portland, our cold spirit smiles and peels the blooms off cherry trees and watches them mold and rot on the cold mossy ground. She has saved her energy and carries on.


It is on days like today that the battle turns.

Spring bribes the clouds to go on vacation and conspires with the sun to deliver a single day’s vitreous blue sky. She seizes the moment to breathe warmth across the earth, and there is an audible crack as Winter’s hold is broken. We wander outside as if waking. We see color and smell life. We stop to look at each other and as we feel the sun’s caress on our cheeks, we stop to make offerings to the spirit of the season, whose victory is at hand. Winter has not thrown her final punch, and we know that she is only re-gathering her strength. Tomorrow clouds and rain will return.

But there is no authority in their solidarity now. In the last days of an empire, the soldiers know revolution is at hand. We have been roused, and the trees and plants and crows—especially the crows—know that we cannot be turned away. Soon it will be her turn to recede into the stones of the earth and bide her time until the fire starts to burn out of the October sky. Autumn awaits her.

After the battle comes the tranquility of warmer days. It was an entertaining battle, as always, but we are happy it’s over. Sleep well, Winter; it is time now for us to get out of our stuffy houses and into the garden again.

1 comment:

Chuck Butcher said...

I think you just made me glad to live where I do. Oh, I was already...