January Thaw

Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal,
so clearly etched against a cloud filled sky . . .
~ from the song “Winter” 

After weeks of “real” winter, complete with snow, ice, and sleet, the rains came yesterday. Thick layers of snow and ice began to crumble and melt in the suddenly warm temperatures, assaulted by alternating pounding rainstorms and soft drizzles.  By evening, a fog had arisen between the melting snow and the warm air and swirled upwards throughout the night.  This morning, mist and fog lay heavily in the woods and along the streams, turning the winter landscape into a mysteriously beautiful January thaw.

I felt as if I were moving through a dream as I walked through the woods. The dark trunks of immense oaks stood like sentinels guarding a secret kingdom in the mist, fading to gray in the distance. Drops of water clung to delicate twigs and buds like sprays of crystals. Snow lingered in pockets, slowly seeping into the garden beds and revealing fresh green growth.

January thaw is an observed but unexplained temperature rise in mid-winter found in mid-latitude North America.” (Wikipedia) The thaw is generally centered around the date of January 25, when a rise of temperatures by 10 degrees Fahrenheit occurs for about a week. The Farmer’s Almanac notes its common designation as “false spring” and compares it to the phenomenon of Indian Summer, the predictable surge of warm weather in autumn. This year, certainly, the thaw is more than 10 degrees warmer than usual; yesterday’s temperature reached 50 F and today will be a balmy 64 F.

The sun is shining now, the mist a memory. I intend to celebrate the January thaw by working in the garden while dreaming of the arrival of “real spring.” Enjoy the morning walk in the woods with me. (Click on any photo to trigger the gallery view)

There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter.  One is the January thaw.  The other is the seed catalogues.
–  Hal Borland

35 thoughts on “January Thaw

  1. Actually we’re hoping it will snow more for ..snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains, which are 130 km. north of us. There will also be an annual ice sculpture contest..there. So fingers crossed.

    Then I’ll dream of spring..which doesn’t arrive until at end of May or later. Our growing season is shorter than your end.

    • Hi Jean, hope you get the snow you are anticipating. Snow is always beautiful but tends not to stay around very long here because our weather tends to go through frequent freeze thaw cycles. People here go to the Allegheny mountains to ski and other winter sports; alas, my idea of winter sports is chess in front of the fireplace 🙂

  2. Pingback: How to play ‘Spring’! | Botanically Inclined

  3. Lovely post! Amazing to think that you’ve had weeks of real winter with plenty of ice and snow to heave and melt. Here in Boston winter has been a very casual visitor; if not for my recent jaunt to the midwest I wouldn’t have experienced true cold once this season!

    • Jenny, thanks for visiting and commenting! Hard to believe that you have had such unseasonable weather in Boston; I had a friend who went to BU and always talked about the winter weather there. It is an odd winter; we had serious snow over the holidays, but now it is completely gone thanks to the thaw. But the mild temps in the 60’s are gone and we are back to freezing weather. Not so untypical for the mid-Atlantic region.

  4. Some very ‘wet’ images! We are also enjoying the January thaw right now – and I was admiring the unexpected green/yellow of the Sisyrinchium and Hypericum ‘Brigadoon’ in our garden.

    • Yes, very juicy! Diversifolius, isn’t it great when plants start to emerge in winter, a little preview of spring? Around here in western Pennsylvania, the tips of the treetops should be starting to get red, signifying a rising of the sap and a precursor of spring. I am always happy to see that sign!

    • It felt that way too, Ehpem. I worked in the garden for several hours today; the soil was completely unfrozen and I was able to pull many winter weeds. A delightful temporary break from winter – temps are to return to freezing on Monday. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Lovely, Lynn. Our week of thaw has passed, as of this evening. Enjoyed the mists and cleansing, but miss the lovely snow and need the canoe (almost) to navigate the soppy trail! Time to sit, again, with gardening books and seed catalogues…and wear waders during my walks! 🙂

    • Kitty, it is very soggy here too, but I was able to stay on the paths while doing some long delayed garden clean up. I have a stack of garden books and catalogs too, near my chair in front of the fireplace 🙂 Happy garden dreams!

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