A Rose in the Wintertime

And I’ll bring you hope
When hope is hard to find,
And I’ll bring a song of love
And a rose in the wintertime

I have to admit that has never been one of my favorite hymns. The melody is simple, almost sing-song, far perkier than I usually feel at this time of the year. And I flinch at the image of a perfect rose – grown somewhere far away under who knows what kind of labor and environmental conditions and imported for out-of-season retail sale – as a midwinter expression of love and beauty. If there must be flowers, I prefer them local and home grown, thanks.

But it is February and not very much is growing here this time of year.

Here in central Maine we have had five or six accumulating snowstorms – at least three of them over eight inches – in the last three weeks. Two storms the last week I was in Chicago left at least two feet of fresh snow on the ground and it’s kept coming, one storm after the next, since I’ve been back. And we have more coming this weekend, another coastal storm that is forecast to dump a foot or more here and twice that downeast. Not sure what Boston is getting this time around, but they bore the brunt of the last storm that only gave us a glancing blow, so I will forgive them if they get off easy this time.

I shoveled the back roof on Thursday. Understand that I did not grow up in snow country and “shovel the roof” is a phrase that makes no sense in my native vocabulary. Nevertheless, Thursday morning I was out on the back roof, the part over the kitchen extension and the sun porch, in my pajamas, shoveling snow off the roof in preparation for the next load to arrive. Okay, I had my coat and boots on in addition to my pajamas, scooting along the roof on my backside pushing snow off it with the shovel. The roof in question is just steep enough and just high enough, and I am just clumsy enough, that standing up there when it’s full of ice does not seem like a good idea. I may be arguably crazy, but I’m not stupid.

I was struck by the absurdity of it all: the snow, the unrelenting snow, the absurdity of climbing out of an upstairs window in my pajamas to shove snow off the back roof knowing that within three or four days no one would be able to tell the difference, listening to the distant grinding of the city crew removing snowbanks lower down the neighborhood, the sounds of a front loader scraping up mountains of snow into a dump truck that would haul it off somewhere, anywhere, I don’t know where, maybe to the city snow dump under the bridge where it will remain, a huge mountain of dirty ice, until probably mid-July at the rate we are going.

There are people who want that water. People in California, Georgia, Florida, wherever the drought is this year.

The same people who gleefully post pictures on FaceBook of their spring flower gardens and lawn furniture and flip-flops every time another northeastern snowstorm is forecast.

Something in my soul snapped, like a too-cold rubber band that suddenly stops holding shut a bag of vegetables in the bottom of the freezer.

I was done with looking at snow.

I wanted to look at flowers. In my yard.

In Maine. In February.


Front of a house, door and sidewalk, snowbanks up to the windowsills. Red and yellow flowers are stenciled on the snowbanks.

These things happen.

Red flowers stenciled on a snowbank by a sidewalk with stairs.

Yellow flowers stenciled on a snowbank.


That’s my front yard, those are my snowbanks, and those are my flowers.

Food coloring and water in a spray bottle, stencils cut from a paper grocery bag, and just enough cabin fever not to care what the neighborhood might think.

I got caught in the act by the mail carrier and the UPS driver. They were both tired of snow, too.

And then, because I knew there was more snow coming and my artistic endeavor was as ephemeral as sidewalk chalk in a summer thunderstorm, I took pictures of it and posted them to FaceBook.

It’s turning into sort of a Bacon Cat moment. In the words of best-selling author and long-time blogger John Scalzi:

Awards? Success? Fame? Perhaps one day they will be yours. But the fact is, nothing you’ll ever do will be more popular than that online picture of bacon taped to a cat.

Or perhaps, that afternoon you got snow-crazy and spray painted the front yard.

I have flowers in my yard, too.


It makes us a little strange, sometimes.

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