2020 was unusual in the universality of its hardships. It kept us all away from so many of the people and traditions we loved. For a number of reasons, it kept me away from this blog.
But even as the pandemic and wildfires and floods raged around the world, nature was kind to us this year here in St. Louis. Unlike the temperamental springs of recent years, the spring of 2020 was long and mild, easing gracefully out from the winter cold and patiently waiting until June to give way to hotter temperatures. Horticulturists at the Missouri Botanical Garden noted that the gentle weather made for the best spring blooms in a decade. The summer was not so cruel as usual, either. Not once did we hit the triple digit temperatures that seem to come around every July to beat us down and flatten us into the pavement. Autumn, too, was exceptional. In recent years, the blue skies and mild temperatures have taken their sweet time, showing up in late October and leaving a week later to make way for frozen rain and nasty winds. But this year, it made an early appearance in chilly September nights and stuck around through November. Even wintertime has been tame so far. It’s January now, and temperatures have only dipped into the teens once; no major storms have shut down roads or knocked out power. The mild days allowed us to get out of our homes for walks or picnics; to see friends and family safely outdoors; to take trips to state parks when we couldn’t travel elsewhere. In a year so full of cruelty, injustice, and loss of life, this mellow weather felt like a gift.
With the winter solstice now freshly behind us, the days are growing longer again, and vaccines now provide a light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic. For now, though, as we plunge headfirst into this new year, nothing much has changed. Nature, too, goes about its business, unaffected by the changing of the calendar. As the loneliness and anxieties of this era continue, take the time to step outside into the sharp cold of a crisp winter day, to stand on your front step and look at the little cloud that rises from your nose. Be grateful for the breath in your lungs; for the goodness of life and all that is living.