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A Cleansing

In to the Wind

April 17, 2013
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

I believe today is the day. I'm thinking all it is going to take to wash away the last vestiges of a persistent winter is to drag out the pressure washer and have at it.

I've recently written about the mud. The weekend before last, the frost finally came out of the ground during a warm rainy night. When it did, the layer of greasy mud atop the gravel roads and my lane worsened. Ruts in the lane have since been smoothed by my hand, and the road crews have been doing a good job of dropping rock where appropriate, and smoothing out the ruts and bumps.

The past couple months saw winter come on with what seemed a vengeance. I believe I was even suffering from slight cabin fever. The animals were, especially the cats.

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Cabin fever symptoms include irritability, melancholy and difficulty focusing. Because we don't live in the land of the midnight sun, classic cabin fever can not be a bona fide malady here in Iowa. Instead I suspect it is something lesser; yet real none-the-less. It might be helpful to the attentive reader to assert I do not suffer from agoraphobia, which would mean I am housebound and trapped by my own emotions.

No, the effects of this winter have been pervasive and seemingly unending. Snow has covered the ground, the roads, my lane, the yard, anything left in the yard, the bushes; you get the point EVERYTHING. Snow and wind have buried and reburied us time and time again. And then that mud.

Where once an unobstructed view out the front of the house comforted and pleased, huge piles of snow obscured and fed that feeling of being closed in. The all too pervasive wind also contributed to my funk. And just when I thought there was relief in sight and a spate of nice weather was upon us, the rug was once again pulled out from under us.

It's not hard to cast a suspicious eye on the weather prognosticators. Not only were they woefully wrong this winter too many times, they erred on the horrible side. Nobody prepared me for days of frigid temperatures, and that mud. This winter was even hard on the usually resilient beasts.

I am writing this column on tax day, April 15. Usually my column regarding the arrival of spring comes much earlier. I am writing it tentatively too. I am uncertain if spring has really sprung, or merely sprung a leak. Is the drought over?

Tufts of green grace the yard. A flight of geese honk in unison as they fly over the ridge. Bluebirds socialize on the fence wire. Woodpeckers return to insect pursuit. Robins wring worms from the sodden ground. The timber is alive and teems with life. If this isn't spring, then a cruel hoax is being played on all. It is 40 degrees.

Crash, bang, what the heck? I jumped up to see what was causing all the commotion. Wink, the one eyed cat had a bluebird in her mouth and was running and dodging me. I finally snagged her, the bird flew free, and Garth, the three legged cat immediately jumped and grabbed it! I got it from Garth and headed outside barefooted and nearly naked, in the cold. The bird flew free from my hands. I went back inside and closed the door to the wood stove. I must have left it open the day before when I saved another bluebird from that dark, dank dungeon. I am going to have to figure out how to cap the chimney until next fall. Why would bluebirds crawl into a creosote crusted stinky chimney?

Once the snow started melting, it was easy to see the dogs hadn't ventured too far to do their duty this winter before dashing back inside to bury their heads in their paws and sleep some more.

The cats seemed particularly neurotic this winter. Some days, every hour or so, they would demand to be let outside. They'd step up to the door leading outside from the garage, see that the snow and cold were still there, and want back in the house. I figure they hoped by then the weather had cleared. Their attention spans are far shorter than even yours truly. At least my ritual was only advanced in the morning, every morning, for days, nay weeks. I too looked for clearing, thawing, and warmth to no avail.

Here is my hope: While basking in the new found sun, the simple task of removing persistent mud from the driveway will bring me unfathomable pleasure. I will diligently spend whatever time is necessary to blast away the muddy paw prints, and the muddy tire tracks. In a symbolic way I will be washing away winter and clearing a path for spring. I will be smiling and probably even whistling while that pressure washer blasts away at the winter grime and my funk.

I do believe I've used the term before, but this has been the "alright already winter." Whatever the case, the timing was perfect. When the ritual is complete, I will leave the season past defined, analyzed, and categorized as what undoubtedly will be called "the winter to remember."

As a sort of reality check, I think it's helpful to remember this "alright already" winter might not be that unusual. For those who can, remember back to April 9, 1973. We were hit by one of the more horrific blizzards the Midwest has ever seen. We were days digging out from under that one.

So now you have it. The simple cleansing act of blasting away winter on a sunny day is hopefully all it will take send my psyche on the path to recovery. More fine days are coming; of this I am now sure.

Until next time-

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the "Local Columns" button.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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