I think Mother Nature has been struggling lately . . . at least around these parts she has. Seems that she cannot make up her mind as to what season we Montanans are supposed to be experiencing . . . winter, spring, or something in between. Seems like she is conflicted . . . confused . . . or even lost. In the past month—the heart of winter here in Montana—Mother Nature has been kind of all over the board. You name it we have probably had it as we have had snow, rain, wind, sub-zero temperatures, and temperatures nearing 70 degrees. We have had snow piled on the ground and we have seen the snow completely disappear. This is not like Mother Nature . . . or at least the Mother Nature we Montanans have known over the years.
I am a little concerned.
Last winter we had over a hundred inches of snow . . . this winter we will be lucky if we breach the sixty inch level. Last winter we had below normal temperatures . . . and lots of sub-zero temperatures . . . while this winter we have had above normal temperatures more often than sub-zero temperatures. Last winter my yard was only snow-free for about a week between November and the end of March . . . this winter I have seen more of my yard than I normally do in the summer! We have been lacking in snow! We have been lacking in cold! Mother Nature seems to be AWOL from out neck of the woods.
I have read in the newspaper that it seems as Mother Nature headed to the northeastern part of the United States this winter. It seems as if the northeastern part of the country has been getting what is normally reserved for our part of the country . . . snow—lots of snow, sub-zero temperatures, and more snow. Last I heard Boston was complaining about nearing a hundred inches of snow . . . and, they don’t like it. They don’t like all the attention that they have been receiving from Mother Nature this winter. While on the other hand, we Montanans are wondering what we did to offend Mother Nature . . . why she is punishing us like this. This is not normal!
It is confusing.
With the snow melt we have had in the lower elevations and the rivers flowing freely due to no ice, the plant world is taking notice . . . in places the grass is greening, trees are budding, and flowers are sticking their heads out of the ground. It is way too early. Critters, too, are noticing. One of the “signs” that Spring is on its way—at least for me—are the number of smashed critters on the road, especially the skunks. Skunks have always been a “sign” for me as they always seem to come out of wherever they hide during the winter to announce that Spring is here. Well, not live skunks . . . just the ones that get run over on the roads. The more road kill skunks I see, the closer Spring is getting. I have seen three in the past month . . . poor, poor critters . . . they are confused.
But it is not only the small critters. Over two weeks ago, in Yellowstone National Park, they spotted their first grizzly bear out of hibernation feasting on the carcass of a dead bison. The hungry grizzly was a couple of months early . . . and, a little confused. Now they are warning visitors to the park to make sure they travel in groups, wear their bear bells, and carry bear spray. Bears out of hibernation is a usual “sign” that winter is waning and that Spring is just around the corner.
Another “sign” is the return of those birds that head south for the winter . . . especially ospreys. A friend of the wife said that she has spotted a pair of osprey nesting down by the Yellowstone River on her property. Again, these birds usually don’t show up until early April . . . but, here they are! Confused!
Dogs have been shedding their winter coats. Horses have been shedding their winter coats. Newborn calves have been thriving in better than normal numbers as the temperatures are nowhere near their normal “freeze you buns off” temperatures during the calving season. Farmers have already disked their fields. We already had one range fire. And, no one froze during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at the river; nope, they were setting up beach chairs and slathering on the sun block. Out-of-state fifth wheels and campers have been spotted on the highways. The masses are losing it . . . they are confused . . . it is not even March yet! Why, oh why, has Mother Nature abandoned us!
As I stated earlier, I am worried about Mother Nature . . . this is not like her . . . this is not her “normal” pattern or activity. I don’t understand why she is acting so erratic. Could it be “global warming”? Could it be a glitch in the universe’s karma? Could the easterners have done something so terrible that Mother Nature got perturbed and changed her focus on them for a while? Could it be some dastardly plot by the political forces in Washington, D.C. to blame it on the president? Could it be that her mind is starting to go . . . after all, she is not as young as she used to be? Could it be she forgot how to use the weather remote? Or that the “replay” button got stuck? Has she been drinking? What is her problem!
All I know is that I feel abandoned.
It is true that most Montanans believe that winter is the ten months we have to endure for the two months of summer we experience every year. But, we also do not let the winter stop us from living . . . lots of us do enjoy getting out in the winter. We like to ski . . . downhill and cross country. We like to snowshoe. We like to go sledding . . . snowmobiling . . . skating. We like to appreciate the winter from the warmth of our homes . . . to see snow-covered mountains . . . while sipping on hot chocolate and Peppermint Schnapps. Though we gripe about the winter, we appreciate the winter . . . we respect the winter . . . even when we are shoveling snow for the millionth time. We appreciate and respect it because it is a part of who we are as a people . . . a part of our identity.
So, when all the snow is getting dumped on the northeastern part of the nation . . . sub-zero and near-freezing temperatures are bring the south to its knees . . . and, people in Texas are experiencing the white stuff and running to dictionaries to find out what it is called . . . we Montanans are missing our winter. This is not “normal” . . . and, we are concerned . . . concerned for Mother Nature. We hope it is only a “phase” she is going through. In the meantime we have put her on the prayer list at church . . . we have rattled the ol’ rosary beads a few times . . . and . . . well, to be honest, we have laughed. We have laughed at all those people back east who can’t handle a little winter . . . wimps! If they can’t handle the winter tell Mother Nature to bring it back.
But, we can wait . . . until November.