© By Jack Bogut
Sometimes it happened in the middle of the night when you weren’t expecting it. You had covers pulled up around your neck in the unheated bedroom, and suddenly you were hot! Without warning the wind started to blow gently and quietly out of the South, warming windows, heating walls, making down quilts obsolete.
In Montana it was called, “Chinook Wind.”
It pushed and swept winter northward as surely as a broom, leaving the hint of a new season in its wake. Children didn’t realize what was happening. They only knew it got hot in the middle of the night and threw off the covers. But adults knew winter was starting to crumble and smiled into the dark.
As darkness was pushed west by the warming sun, icicles hanging from the roof outside the bedroom window caught the first rays of the sun and dropped small balls of light off their pointed ends and down into the softening snow. Since the gray of winter covered the land, birds started to sing, softly at first and then louder and louder just to be heard over the gathering sound of water starting to run, not where you could see it but under the snow and ice.
Children would fill the streets in unbuttoned winter coats and search for puddles to splash in. Curtains would hang out of partially opened windows like lace tongues, tasting the air.
Old folks, housebound for too long, winter stiffness starching their joints, would hobble out of doors and sit on porches, nodding their heads in agreement with everything, happy to just to be alive.
Animals would stretch and kick the kinks out of unused muscle and sinew and wait for something to chase. After such a long winter, an aging dog wouldn’t recognize the crankiest cat in the block and pay for it with a nose full of claws.
A wet newspaper would dry in an oven;
Sheets would hang in the sun;
Long-johns on clothes lines would wave like headless ghosts;
Musty air trapped in houses would skulk away in silence
Like a rejected lover, looking back over its shoulder.
And we’d shout questions at neighbors
As if we hadn’t seen them all year:
“Whooeee, ain’t this great?”
“You can say that again.”
And he always did. And we’d all laugh.
“Warms the bones, don’t it?”
“Thought it would never get here!”
“Well, who are you? My, my, didn’t you grow up over the winter?”
Oh, it would freeze again tonight,
But the Chinook wind would be back tomorrow.
Its warm breath would blow in everyone’s ears,
Tickling the young, tantalizing those in their prime,
And warming old hearts happy just to see one more season come.
Chinook wind, like a velvet blowtorch
Turning ice to slush, snow to water,
Inside to outside, old to young, and young to new
As the breath and ghost of winter faded into the grass...
Spring was here.