Back there around the end of October (on the 29th) I wrote a blog entitled “The First Day of Winter”. It sure as hell felt like it back then. The following day, I received an e-mail from a very dear friend who lives in Acapulco (where it NEVER feels like winter) telling me that I was mistaken because winter didn’t begin until the 21st of December. Of course, people living in the tropics need a date because without it they would never know when winter arrived, but for me winter had come when I had to put on my woolen scarf, three layers of clothing, woolen gloves, woolen socks and my overcoat. The problem was that winter only lasted that one day and then proceeded to become late autumn right up through November, December and January with temperatures hardly ever going below 8 even in the early hours of the morning and usually rising to above 14 during the day. True, there wasn’t much sun; as a matter of fact, France hadn’t seen that amount of rain since 1950 something, and a large amount of it fell on the South West. There were times when I thought I would sprout greens under my arms. But the temperatures were not wintery. Proof of this was that I spent most of the winter turning off my heat around 11 in the morning and not turning it on again until 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and my cotton undershirts –an absolute must under everything in 2011- actually stayed in the drawer. It wasn’t really till late February that we got around ten days of low temperatures and even a couple of late night freezes. And then, with the first days of March, spring came.
I know, I know… according to my friend and the calendar, spring does not begin until a week from today, but here in Salies the sun burst through and the chilly mornings turned into middays with temperatures between 18 and 22º C. The pink magnolias burst into bloom, the village ordinance filled the flower beds with brightly colored primaveras and the trees began putting out green sprouts that would soon turn into leaves. I saw people going around in tee-shirts and shorts (young people, of course) and found myself putting on no more than two sweaters and always taking one off shortly after leaving the house. I started buying flowers for my window sills and began taking out my spring jackets. Colors came back into my wardrobe and I even donned my white jeans one Sunday for lunch.
Unbelievably, while Salies was enjoying this absolutely spring-like weather, the north of France was being hit with Siberian temperatures thanks to a wind that was coming from… Siberia! My calendar-conscious friend wrote me to see if we were surviving the late winter and I wrote back bragging that Salies had a micro-climate and we were enjoying balmy breezes while the rest of northern Europe froze.
And then it happened: Yesterday morning the temperature dropped or rather never rose from an uncomfortable 3-4º. I put on four layers of clothing again. I went to a reunion in the evening and when I came out a cold rain was falling. Salomé was miserable because I had put on her raincoat again. I came home, made my dinner and sat to watch a movie. At ten I turned off the computer and rose to stretch and I saw it: outside the window, enormous, fluffy snowflakes unhurriedly drifted down and coated everything on the ground. It was snowing, seriously snowing; not just a dusting of flakes which is what we have had about three times since I have been here, but a snow storm. I rushed out Salomé in tow. Standing underneath the street lamps and looking up was so exciting I forgot I had just washed and blow-dried my hair that morning. The snow was abundant enough to start covering everywhere it fell, the sidewalk, the branches of trees, all the narrow ledges and the roof-tops. It was Christmas in March. Salomé was bewildered by the flakes but enchanted with the fallen snow which she promptly dug her snout into and tried to eat. I just stood there, looking up, letting the flakes fall and melt on my face. I began to sing: “…In the meadow we will build a snowman; make believe that he is Parson Brown. He’ll say are you married, we’ll so ‘no, man; but you can do the job when you’re in town’. Later on, by the fire, we will sit and conspire, ‘bout the plans that we made, the games that we played, walking in a winter wonderland.”
On the way back to my apartment I stopped on the floor below to tell my neighbor and friend, Danielle, that it was snowing. Together we stood at her window and marveled. When I got to my apartment, I sent a message to Kiwi-san to make sure he looked out of his window, and before getting into bed, I stood for a long time looking out over the whitening Salies, listening to the hush of falling snow, thinking of what it would look like in the morning if we were lucky and it snowed all night. During the night I got up twice and checked to see if it was still snowing: it was. As a matter of fact, it was still snowing this morning when I awoke, although much less than during the night. I hurried to dress, grabbed my bag, my camera and Salomé and headed for the snow. It was a winter scene as I hadn’t experienced since my childhood. Salomé and I were like children (perhaps I should say puppies); I made snowballs and threw them and she chased them trying to pick them up with her snout.
A very light snow continued all day until the late afternoon when a watery sun began to shine through the clouds. By then the snow had mostly melted and by tomorrow morning there will be little left to remind us that Salies looked like Christmas just some hours earlier. The weather forecast is for warmer temperatures beginning tomorrow so spring might just make it by next Thursday after all. Who knows? Global warming? Another ice-age? I am grateful to be alive today and I guess that is more than enough to ask for.