Years ago I did some writing with observations about our natural world as the theme. I loved reading other writers such as Thoreau, Muir, Edwin Way Teale, Hal Borland and many others who enjoyed describing natural events. It was from Borland that I picked up the phrase “the January thaw.” It may be more a construction of our imagination that a meteorological fact but it rings a bell with a lot of us. Each year I anticipate it as it it were as sure as the equinox.
“There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any winter. One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogs.”
In his book Sundial of the Seasons, he wrote, “The January thaw is special because it opens winter’s door a crack just when it seems that the ice has locked it tight. Through that crack one can see the certainty of March and April somewhere up ahead....The worst one can say about the January thaw is that it never lasts. It lifts the heart, then drops it with a cold thud when the warm spell passes and the chill congeals the earth again....But when January does relent, even for a day or two, we can celebrate, cautiously.”
Typically, the thaw is described as a week or unseasonably warm weather occurring in the neighborhood of the 25th of January. Today it is the 20th and the temperature got up into the 60’s. This warmth isn’t going to last a week but it was the break we needed to get outside and take down the Christmas lights.