The last two weeks of February is the time each year when I start to realize that I won't die during winter, at least this year. Each year that I get older is another year when winter seems that much more interminable and miserable. Once I get through New Year's, the long march to spring begins, and while it's really just a month or two, it feels longer.

I mark time throughout by the diminishing size of my reserve of seasoned, split firewood that is easily reachable from my porch. Each log that comes off the pile is like an inverted version of a mark on the wall in a fictionalized Tower of London. The garden catalogs, with their promises of summer bounty (rather than creeping charlie and Asian tiger mosquitoes) start to fill my mailbox. My freezer is down to the last few dregs of the quarter steer from the prior year: "Number 491, you were super-delicious, but I wish that the last fifteen pounds of your mortal remains included something other than tongue, hamburger, soup bones, and an arm roast."