The first sign was when the water pipes did not freeze. We have learned to take the advice of people more knowledgeable in this stuff, so we let the water trickle from the pipes for three days. The man on the other end of the city water department phone couldn't have been nicer, even when I know he must have answered dozens of similar inquiries.
Better to have a few more dollars tacked onto the monthly water bill than to be repairing broken pipes, he advised. Even when the wind chill hit 20 to 30 below zero, we still had water and that was my first sign that things are looking up despite the gloom of winter.
The next sign arrived in the mailbox the other day. As I shivered my way from the box to the front door, I could not take my eyes and thoughts off the seed catalog that arrived like a whiff of spring. I would set it aside and savor its contents along with my after dinner cup of tea. It will provide a brief respite from the winter blahs, conjuring up happy thoughts of digging in the warm earth and planting something, anything. Perhaps this will be the year I actually grow some spaghetti squash and pumpkins.
Before I walked into the house I glanced over at my rose bushes frozen in place. I longed to see their red, pink and yellow blooms. I'm not so attentive to them but they reward me with their beauty and fragrance anyway. The roses took a turn for the better last year when I inserted among their thorny branches a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that my mother bought for $2 at a yard sale.
Late January and the month of February are trying and tiring times around these parts. However, the population does not fail in its efforts to make up for the lack of warmth and sunshine. From ballroom dancing lessons to martial arts schools, we have learned not to take winter sitting down. That's a good sign.
Who cares if it's 5 degrees outside when you can be toasty warm inside WesBanco Arena while cheering on the Nailers hockey team. This is one of the best kept family entertainment venues in the valley and you don't even have to love the sport to get caught up in the fun. It's another sign that we can get through to spring.
When boredom begins to creep in and I tire of cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen again, I peruse the movie listings and most often wind up at Towngate Theatre to take in some quirky flick not always appearing at the big chain cinemas. And the popcorn and candy prices won't break the bank at Towngate.
No matter how cold or bleak our surroundings might be, we still have clean water, something our neighbors to the south in West Virginia are quickly learning to live without. We can bathe, cook, brush our teeth and drink a glass of water without worry of getting sick. It would be a positive sign of our human compassion if we all could try to help out our southern neighbors and be their ray of sunshine.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.