How are the Roads?

Skunk cabbage

In Michigan, in February, there is one question I hear more than any other question – more even than “How are you doing?” What question is that?

“How are the roads?”

As much as people instinctively respond “good” to the first question, they seem to take an inexplicable joy in relating just how “bad!” their journey was in the snow. The roads were absolutely terrible, barely even cleared, there were at least a dozen cars on the sides of the roads, and visibility was zilch.

Sometimes that sounds like the answer to the other question. The answer we never give.

Winter tends to have the same effect on my creativity as it does on the roads. It’s hard to find inspiration when everything around me is white or slush brown, and there’s no end in sight. It’s hard to be productive when all I want to do is curl up under every blanket we own and hibernate like a bear until spring.

I think it would be better if I forgot about the bear and tried to be more like skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage?

I’d never heard of this plant before moving to Michigan, where it grows freely in the ravine behind my house and my in-laws’ house, and in the local nature center where I like to walk. No one much cares for it, but I think the purple, wild, beak-like flower is really beautiful. What I didn’t know about skunk cabbage until just recently is that it has the ability to generate temperatures 20-60 degrees above the temperature of the air around it.

I know, it’s crazy!

This means that these little green plants started growing in the nature center last week, during the middle of our heaviest, longest snow of the season (so far).

So I want to be a skunk cabbage, and grow, and be green, in February, so I can tell people that the roads are just fine.

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