It is still cold. Wednesday morning dipped to 10°. Thursday morning dropped to 4°. And yet there is a softness to the air just now, a sort of winter's rest, where the wind quits blowing, the sun shines a little more each day and the temperature strives to get a little higher before the next bitter night.
I've noticed, too, that there is more light in the sky each morning when I awake. I am a man of schedules and I rise at the same time every day, spend the same minutes eating breakfast and am standing beside the bathroom window, sawing a toothbrush between my lips at the same instant each day. It is not just the snow on the ground affording extra light. It is that the day is growing longer, the sun is ever inching northward.
I would not have stepped outside last evening for sunset pictures had the day not been sunny and warmer. Though we only topped at freezing, it was a prelude to today when we managed 40°. I could feel that change coming twelve hours before. I was again in the mood to be out.
As I rounded the garage, white bathrobe hanging below my coat, I saw the icicles, formed daily on the south edge of the garage roof, tinged with the warm colors of sunset, like frozen rainbows. Had I come by but a few minutes later, the icicles would have been in cold shadow and their appeal would have been less striking.
Behind me, against the west wall of the house and opposite the bathroom, I piled bales of straw last fall, keeping the coldest wind off the bricks, hoping to save the plumbing. Above, another ice dam drips through the day and refreezes each evening encasing the straw in strips of ice, like a prison window. It is doing its job in protecting the pipes, ice itself protecting against ice.
A few moments more and the sky begins to darken, the January sun feeble and able to offer no heat unless overhead. It is a cold, stark scene. The fields laid out in white, sleeping beneath this crisp unwrinkled sheet for more than a week.
The scene alone beckons me to stay, to watch the sun dip beneath the distant trees. Though there is no wind, I give a sudden shudder, more from anticipation of the cold than the actual temperature. A January night falls quickly once it begins.