What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel bittersweet about the end of an extreme, history making Chicago winter?

As I walk with Phoebe through Brook’s Park, I can see the snow is melting. I should be 100% happy. Within the past two days of over 40 degree temps, the feet have dropped to inches and beyond. There is green, black and brown color seeping back into my world. The weather is improving.


The Robins have returned, they populate the red berry trees and the remnants of stained, crimson snow beneath. To be sure, their puffed up, tawny brown chests are a welcome Spring sight.

From Annclaire G. - I was feeling sorry for the Robins with all the berries gone down here in the flats. I raided the freezer. They love the raspberries, even though it makes them look like carrion. Dried currents are not as exciting. They sent out the message because suddenly there were over a dozen in our yard.
But, what is it with me? A pang of sadness, as I walk with Phoebe through our park. That’s it – “our” park! I fear a time has passed. This winter has been so extreme that the park has been empty for much of it. On most days, Phoebe and I were the only diehard visitors around. Together we made memories, our lone footsteps and paw prints, frozen in the ice and snow for months. We used our prints as trail markers to navigate around a deserted landscape. Like the ice, all are disappearing, fading away like magic.
As we walk through on this day, I can barely see the last remaining belt marks from the nighttime snowmobiler. The tracks left behind suggest the mysterious craft zoomed around the park in the midnight hour, long after everyone in the neighborhood had gone to sleep. Leaving behind a morning memory, revealed as a belt-cut path through the deep snow, something only a machine could make. Phoebe loved to find it and hop onto it, following the packed path around and through the middle of the Park. She liked to follow it with her nose and I liked to follow her because my feet didn’t sink into the snow.
snowmobile tracks

Just over there, the tall hills of plowed snow are shrinking. They are no longer towering over my head. Earlier in the winter, as the snow piles grew, Phoebe was fond of climbing up to the top. There she would sit, looking out over the park like a sentry. Sometimes, I would summit and sit with her. In the cold, bright silence of many sub-zero mornings, we were the only ones out and we had the world to ourselves. Such peace.

phoebe on hill

Then, there are the fading footprints. The tiny prints of squirrels and rabbits, the larger boot prints of dog walkers and dogs, clues for me, revealing what Phoebe anxiously sniffed and tracked in the snow. Only during this season, could I see what’s usually invisible.  The snow highlighting the concealed secrets of trapped scents.


My memories of this particular winter in the park are melting away.

My first winter in retirement – what a record breaking, memorable and unforgettable experience. I am grateful for the gift of time – I was able to get out “in the day” to experience the best it had to offer.

I was also very lucky – to have seen it through the eyes of a snow loving, curiosity seeking, playful young  Saint Bernard!

phoebe snowMy Phoebe Snowdog


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