Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Tentative Spring

I've been hesitant to blog about this, as I was concerned the day I did would be the day Mother Nature found her sense of humor and decided to dump feet of snow on Zurich (or maybe because it snowed well into April last winter). But it's been almost a week now of almost daily sun and blue skies, and green leaves are starting to assert themselves above the damp earth.

Flower! I get disproportionately excited about these things - it's been a dreary winter.

These buds are significant because they were personally planted by moi (and moi's parents) last fall, and now they're poking through. They're like my dozen little children that only need occasional watering.
Pictures of Switzerland in winter usually portray gorgeous snow-topped mountains against a striking blue background:
Gorgeous, right? And with just a few wispy clouds. Also unrealistic. However, if you go to the Wikipedia page of the Matterhorn (which this is a picture of - don't call it the Jungfrau like I once did. It's the equivalent of some visitor in the US referring to the Statue of Liberty as the Washington Monument. Very uncool and does not go over well with the locals) - what was I saying? Oh yes - practically every picture of the mountain has it against beautiful clear skies. I'm not saying they're lying, per se, I'm just saying that I've been told by people in the know that if you want to even see the Matterhorn (not to mention take stunning pictures), you probably should book three or four nights at Zermatt, the local village, to up your chances.
These photographs are beautiful, no doubt. However, they don't mention (perhaps because pictures don't talk) the fact that the majority of the Swiss population don't live on these majestic peaks above the cloud cover, mainly because we like an indoors to retreat to (no diss to abominable snowmen - in fact, major respect). The vast majority of us live in lower elevation valleys, surrounded by peaks of various heights. 

And as you may remember from middle school science, valleys surrounded by mountains often have fog due to something about evaporation of water (I said you may remember it - I don't). Lots of fog. Switzerland, as special and lovely as it is (and honestly, it is - no sarcasm intended), is no exception to this. Thus, in winter - especially in one as warm as this has been - there are often days or even weeks straight of heavy, gray skies that may or may not spit rain or something vaguely resembling it. Occasionally the fog or cloud cover may dissipate, but by that time it's usually close to 4 pm and the sun, having done its minimum, has already retreated behind the nearby mountains. I believe that I made comparisons to All Summer in a Day (short story here and short video here - I won't judge which one you click on) last year, and that comparison remains apt.

To prove my point, this is the picture I just pulled from the webcam on the Matterhorn's official website:
Yep, that looks about right.
Except this winter, it hasn't even had the courtesy to snow in the valleys. I like snow - the whiteness brightens things up and it's nostalgic and it crunches and it's purty.

This is the most snow I saw ALL WINTER - pathetic. My family in North Carolina got more than this (although they probably are just as thrilled about that as I am). Also note the grey and fog, as per my original point.
I'm not sure I trust a Swiss spring that begins in mid-February, but I remain cautiously optimistic. Meanwhile, I will join the random cat on our patio in soaking up the sun while it's around - however short that may be.

PS - I took too long to write this, and of course the sun has not come out today. I will hold off judging the mean sense of humor Nature has until tomorrow, but then I'm calling her on it.

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