Fare thee well, you long, long winter

Dear Winter,

Well, it was a good visit this year. Your strong presence was both a joy and a pain, I have to admit. There were great days of skiing, snowshoeing and playing. Great days of enjoying your snow from the comfort of my couch, warm coffee in hand. But there were also days where getting out of warm bed to a cold house to then to gird against your cold and fight your snow and seemed like too much. Sometimes I longed for hibernation through it all.

Have you heard that Ben Franklin witty piece of wisdom, “Guest, like fish, stink in 3 days”? In that spirit, it might be best you were on your way. I regret to inform you some people are saying you are overstaying your welcome.

So, goodbye to your snow which blanketed our world in white, both delicate and devastating. The snow that we shoveled, shoveled, shoveled. But it was also the snow that revealed the private trails of creatures, giving us insight into their comings and goings. We hope there was enough of your snow to sufficiently add to the water table, to nourish the plants that rested, quiet beneath your blanket. Soon they will be out, reaching for that water.

Goodbye to your icicles that hung beautiful and menacing along roof lines, bridges and wheel wells. Rainbows were reflected in their elongated forms on sunny days and brought color to your brown and white world.

Goodbye to your bone chilling cold that froze our nose hairs but also put seeds, insects and animals to rest so they could awaken in spring’s warmth, ready to grow.

Goodbye to your ice across the puddles, ponds and lakes. Formed by that severe cold, it make walking treacherous but also became pathways for people to explore and see your beauty. Crossing Chautauqua Lake not on a boat but on skis was quite the winter adventure for one who grew up in more mild winter environment.

Your last hurrah was quite a surprise, slowing my travel and covering my crocuses. But that was enough. Green is creeping into my dreams and refuses to go away.

Until next year, Winter. The Southern Hemisphere awaits you. It needs your cold, your snow, your dormancy just as we do. You will be gone for long enough for us to miss you and ache for your world-altering snow, cold and ice. But now we have things to do.

Your snow covers a myriad of sins and they are starting to show- a Styrofoam coffee cup, plastic rings from milk jugs and packing peanuts. Escaped from their trip to the landfill intentionally or unintentionally by the humans that used them. Now that their ugliness is exposed, they need to be picked up.

And there’s Garlic Mustard to pull. It can tolerate your cold but we can’t find this invasive species under the snow. And we’d like to remove it so other native species can grow.

There are gardens to till, natives and crops to be planted but you have to release your frozen hold on the ground.

We do this all this work and more on Volunteer Day, Saturday, April 19 starting at 8:30am. For the past two years we’ve had over 80 volunteers planting, pulling, picking and cleaning to make our little patch of land a better experience for visitors and a better home for its residents. Both new and experienced volunteers are invited to join us for a day of work and camaraderie. After we work, we’ll share a lunch together. Volunteer Day is generously sponsored by Cummins Engine Plant.

Coming out of the bitter cold of this winter, saying goodbye to the ice and snow, it will feel good to sink our hands into the soil, to nourish plants with melted snow.

P.S. While you are a guest that no one can turn away, you are not invited to Volunteer Day, Winter. If you do show up, we will work through you anyway. We’ve done it before. But it would be more comfortable if you stayed away.

Jamestown Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Rd. in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Learn more about the center and sanctuary and the many programs and events by visiting jamestownaudubon.org, or call (716) 569-2345.

Katie Finch is a naturalist at Audubon, who loves winter but also spring, summer and fall.