Another cold, gloomy day settles down around us, as many of our days have been this winter.

With an abundance of rain, and plenty of mud, we look forward to drier days to come.  According to the weathercaster, we may be in for some genuine winter weather after all.  What snow that we have had so far has been skimpy, and the last one merely coated the grass and rooftops and quickly melted away.

Yesterday, a pale, wintery sun filtered weak beams of sunlight through the leafless trees and came to rest on the round hilltops and broomsage patches.  (A friend from Oregon questioned what “broomsage” is, and I had to explain that the correct word is broom sedge, but country people use the word broomsage.  It grows in dry, tan patches and I’ve heard farmers say that it is a sign of poor soil.)

Against a gray January sky, the bare limbs of the trees are etched in pencil-sharp relief.  The brownness of the hills is relieved only by the patches of green pine that march randomly up the hillside.  The misty fog that has shrouded our hills and valleys for some time now is still much in evidence, and it seems a long time until warmer weather.

One of the ladies at church Sunday reported that a big flock of robins had descended upon their yard, scratching diligently for earthworms.  When the robins return from down south, I have always felt that springtime is not far away. Right now, the juncos flit in and out of the birdfeeder, as they twitter and chirp among themselves, singing a hopeful, cheerful winter song.

The blue jays visit the feeder too, noisy and quarrelsome, and entirely lacking in good manners.  A pair or two of cardinals join them, while the tiny juncos wait patiently for their turn.  It would be a less cheerful world without our beautiful birds, and I am so thankful that our Heavenly Father included them when He created all things well.

January has always seemed like the longest month in the year to me, and in my imagination, it always appears white.  (November is brown, and April is shell pink!)  The excitement of the holidays are behind us, and spring seems a long way off.  Winter usually reserves her worst weather for this month, and the earth seems dead and forsaken.  Right in the midst of this barrenness, the seed catalogs begin arriving.  The brightly colored illustrations and mouth-watering descriptions bring hope and anticipation for the coming spring.

Never mind that the tomato seed that you ordered last year was described in such vivid terms, as “one tomato will fill a pint jar” turned out to be little runts. There is still hope for the coming year that your garden will be the best yet.  Oh, the gardens that are planned and planted in the mind in January!  Long rows of green beans (weed-free, of course) flourishing in the sun, juicy ripe tomatoes begging to be picked, and tall rows of yellow corn—we can just see how it will be.  And the flower beds that we are going to plant and take such good care of—it seems that we can hardly wait until planting time.

Maybe we should plant some fruit trees this spring.  Listen to this—“Enjoy bountiful crops of your favorite Stark Brothers apples year after year!”  And look at those juicy red cherries!  Oh, these seed catalogs are so encouraging in the month of January!  Let the temperatures fall, and the snowflakes fly, (and they surely will,) we have had a foretaste of spring.

It seems as if, for the past several days (actually longer!) I have been experiencing the forgetfulness and foibles of old age.  I asked my daughter if she thought I was getting more forgetful and awkward as I grew older.  “Are you kidding, Mommy?” she answered.  “You’ve always been that way!”

It reminded me of what happened when I was making cookies a few days ago.  I had measured brown sugar in a plastic cup, and was adding it to the bowl while the mixer was running.  I accidentally dropped the cup into the mixing bowl, it shot out and flew across the kitchen, while brown sugar sprayed over my face and covered my eyeglasses.  The dogs loved to lick the kitchen floor.

One of the most forgetful things occurred, when I wrote about our wedding anniversary.  I reported that we celebrated our 63rd anniversary.  It was weeks later when I re-counted the years, and we have actually been married 64 years.  How can you make a mistake like that?  The most embarrassing thing that happened recently was when my daughter stopped at a used clothing sale, and I followed her.

I spied a nice purse in a box with some other things, and opened it to look at the pockets inside.  To my surprise, it had personal things in it, along with a billfold.  “Hmm, I said to myself—someone must have forgotten to take their  stuff out of this!”  I rummaged longer, saw the owner’s name in the billfold and told the girl behind the counter what I had found.  To my utter embarrassment, it belonged to a customer who was shopping in there too!  I tried to apologize, and she was very sweet and said she shouldn’t have put her purse there.  I tried to slink out without anyone recognizing me!  I hope I’m not alone in these foibles.

I understand much more now what the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes means.  It reads, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them: “ Solomon goes on to describe the calamities of old age, when hearing shall be affected, grinders (teeth) shall cease because they are few, and eyesight becomes dimmer (those that look out of the windows be darkened.)

The verse which affects me the most is the 5th, which says, “Also they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and mourners go about the streets:”  Yes, I fear that which is high, because of the many falls which I have had, and so many broken bones.

Old age is inevitable, unless one dies young.  Proverbs 16-31 says, “The hoary (gray) head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.”