Heavy gray clouds had hung low all day. I stared out the kitchen window. Although it looked unpleasant outside, I needed to get some fresh air. A chilled gust of wind tugged at my neck scarf when I stepped out the back door with a letter to mail. Snow-snake ice crystals slithered here and there across the driveway.
Snuggled comfortably inside two sweaters and my late husband’s large work coat, I decided to walk to the bridge after putting my letter in the roadside mailbox. Small pine trees bent beneath a blanket of snow. Tall weeds and grass in the ditch were covered with hoar frost. The river had one or two spots that hadn’t been frozen over before it snowed. Looking down from the bridge, I could see cold water flowing through the looking-glass ice patches.
Back inside the house, the bird-clock on the dining room wall began to sing the song of a little brown wren. It was only four in the afternoon. Surprised that it wasn’t later because of how dark it was, I double checked the time against my wrist watch. Wisconsin winter days are short, especially on the second of January.
Shivering, I poured myself a cup of hot tea. As I sat in my rocking chair wrapped in a blanket to sip my tea, I remembered one summer afternoon spent working in my greenhouse garden.
I had been busy transplanting flowers in the heat and humidity. As the evening advanced, the afternoon’s warm air became pleasantly cool. The moist soil under the plastic mulch sheet remained deliciously warm. I lost all track of time happily tucking the small plants into their new home. An after-glow hung in the sky long after the sun had set.
When I finally stopped working and returned to the house, I was surprised how the well-lit interior made the twilight in the backyard appear dark as night through the windows. The clock on the dining room wall showed eight-forty-five in the evening!
Remembering that warm day made me aware of how cold my living room felt. I glanced at the night-filled living room window. It was early in the evening yet, but the darkness made me feel like going to bed in spite of the early hour.
I mused, “No wonder bears hibernate this time of year. Compared to summer, winter is a whole different world. I remember a young, black bear walking through the backyard several summers ago. I wonder if it’s still around? I hope he has a nice cozy den somewhere along the river.” The day that I had seen him, I’d been weeding the beans. Rain gently fell, but not inside the hoop building garden where I sat. When the sky began to flash lightning and roll thunder, I had run to the house like a scared chicken.
After the storm moved away, I stood at my back door trying to decide whether I should return to the garden or not. Then, from around the corner of the shed, out strolled a large black bear. He sauntered casually through the yard between the garage and my house. He stopped to sniff the rain dampened air and licked his lips. I decided I was done gardening for that day.
In my cold living room, I wondered, “Do bears wake up during the winter and go for walks? The countryside looks so different in the winter. Instead of a green countryside, the bear would find pine trees covered in white gowns, dead stalks of grass wearing ice-crystal tiaras and icy window panes on the river.”
My imaging a bear thinking like a human made me chuckle, “I’m not a bear, but these short, cold, dreary Wisconsin winter days do make me feel like hibernating. Especially now that Christmas is over, I like to stay in my warm house throughout January and February, putting together jigsaw puzzles. I guess, I do sort of hibernate this time of year!”