Of course, the weather warnings last night were a case of a boy crying ‘wolf.’ Perhaps tonight will bring serious problems for tomorrow morning, but for today the snow did not arrive in Co Meath. Instead, there was persistent rain, not the soft rain, but instead it was the rain of the cold, penetrating, chilling sort that speaks of a prolonging of winter. It was the sort of rain that makes you slam the car door shut and run for the dryness of the building.
There is not a great sense of spring being upon us, not much sense of the land awakening, not much sense of nature stirring herself from a months long slumber. The spring seems to have stalled, blossom deciding to delay its appearance. The low ground temperatures mean that the grass is not growing enough to take the pressure off farmers struggling to pay the high costs of feedstuffs.
A friend in Dublin once complained that what she most disliked about Irish winters were that they were so much darker than they had been in Ontario, her home for decades.
It had been a baffling comment, the 53 degrees North latitude of Dublin was not so different from the latitudes of that vast Canadian province.
‘How so?’ I had asked. ‘The daylight hours in Dublin and Ontario are not that different’.
‘It’s the light’, she had replied. ‘In Ontario the snows come and the skies clear and the sun shining on the snow fills everything with brilliant light. Here there is greyness’.
Greyness, leaden skies, or, even worse, days when drizzle, mist, and bone chilling dampness create an illusion of the sky being on the ground, allow days to slip by unnoticed; nothing to distinguish one half illumined afternoon from the preceding or succeeding one. Following the example of October and November, it would be easy for January, February and March to slip past one’s awareness, for them to keep a profile so low that their presence passes unregistered.
But a moment can change things. There are things that can imbue the blanket of grey, smothering dullness with a radiance it seemed not to possess. In a landscape unchanged from the deadness of winter, there can be things that can break into the was a sense of the darkness of which my friend had complained.
Driving the road from Trim to Athboy, Ry Cooder was on the CD player. With a few bars of guitar music, he conjured the bright, warm spaciousness of an American landscape. Music’s capacity to change the mood of a day is not something to underestimate.