Morning came hard. I had fallen asleep last night under the drowsing influence of NyQuil, my head sandwiched between two pillows and my being cosseted with blankets and warmed from beneath by the heated mattress pad that was cranked up more than usual. When I woke this morning I could sense the cold of the house, the tip of my nose chilly compared to the warmth of my bed, and even though the children had already come down and were noisily banging about in the kitchen, I wanted nothing more than to stay snug in my warren until the groundhog saw his shadow and predicted spring.
Eventually pragmatism won, and I hauled myself out of bed, dressed, and emerged from my bedroom in search of coffee. I glanced out the back door as I passed, and the sight caused me a moment's pause.
The ground was glittering. A fine layer of white covered everything from the edge of the black grill cover to the individual blades of grass that browned the yard. In the past two years, I realized, I could have counted the hard freezes and glittering frosts on the fingers of a single hand, and seeing the phenomenon again was beautiful. Glorious. A winter memory brought back to life.
I poured my coffee and walked to the back door. I rested my hand against the glass and felt the heat loss, the exchange of the house's warmth for the nip of the outdoors. I removed my hand from the glass and wrapped it around my coffee mug, the contrast between cold door and warm mug stark against my skin.
After staring outside for a minute, curiosity plucked up the courage to order me about, and I opened the door and stepped outside, barefoot on the concrete. The air was cold but still. No September wind ruffled the leaves. No summer crickets chirped, no spring peepers croaked - even the birds were silent, likely sleeping late in their warm holes and nests, realizing that in this cold, there would be no worms to be early for.
I walked to the edge of the porch, and a few sounds made their way to my straining ears. A clatter off to the left - a squirrel picking its way up a tree, heading back to a snug den after digging breakfast from under the frozen leaves. Ticking noises to the right - leaves clattering against branches on their way to the ground, soldiers falling, having lost the battle with winter, their movements made louder by the deathly silence all around.
Frost is a callous thing, a bitter master, not caring whether it coats the weed or the rose, the mundane or the exotic. Life, and warmth, and a dry wind are its only nemeses. I poked at some of the frost with a naked toe and felt it attack me with shards of fire, stinging like a honeybee and, also like a bee, losing its life in the fight. When I pulled back my foot, a dark spot remained, the now-dead grass a victim of the siege that had taken place overnight.
Listening to the silence once more, it became reminiscent of Christmases past, and a waiting, expectant thrill ran through me like a shiver. I looked at houses nearby and pictured them covered in long white strings of holiday lights. It was a cozy thought. Turning back to the house, I saw the glint of sunlight peeking over the horizon, and the ice flashed. One last stand, it said, before I make way for the relative warmth of the day.
I returned to the house and its artificial heat, letting it clothe me in comfort and decadence. A swirl of steam from my coffee reminded me that there were other sources of heat, and I took a sip as I walked to the stairs. The outdoors could remain in the grasp of dead, wintry frost for a while longer; I was made of life and would avoid it.