Those Cold Concrete Statues of St. Francis

“That ‘ll blog,” replied my husband in the dawn’s early light as we rolled down the ribbon of highway to the commuter station for drop-off and to head into the work of the day. Thus commissioned, I take up the task from my warm train car and think about the physical contraction of the garden supply complex we just raced past, one usually blooming with life three seasons of the year but now home to a small crowd of statues huddled together as if deep in conversation. Rather than integrated among rows of beautiful perennials and annuals, these tall statues of St. Francis, lover of gardens and animals, have sought refuge, or simply been stowed, in the center space of an outdoor portico. Usually they may gaze upon an abundance of green and life, but today, the outer perimeter of their view is barren instead of harboring fruit trees and shrubs. Do these little men guard what remains after the festive greens of holidays, for the shop mostly closed up waiting, waiting for spring?

Perhaps. But before we pine for those warm breezes and long days, we owe Mother Nature a brief shout out for the mild days now upon us. Yes, the shop signs still hawk salt, and wood for the stoves, and sand or grit for your paths. But the fields we pass further along are tawny, dry, and comfortable. The trees are calm sentinels and not wind-whipped, arm-waving dangers. The sky at 5:30 this morning was also calm and bright with scattered stars and a planet here or there. For a little while, at least, we may know winter ease.

Of course it may not last. The forecast could render these lines regrettable in only a few hours should a new front blow in. Plenty of times do we see that nor’easter pattern of swirling snow and howling wind hammering in on us and scattering us to our hobbit-like homes should we be fortunate to have them. But on this ride in, I am content to joggle past the bright sun on the blue water, see the power plant steam condense, and notice the marsh bird or two hunkering over a small pond, fishing for breakfast. Ice floes, they think, be gone! And they soon will be. Today I am not sure it is “bleak mid-winter,” and I wonder if we have the Francis-es to thank for this respite.

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