chi·me·ra - kīˈmirə,kəˈmirə/ noun
(in Greek mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.
a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve.
Yeah, I’ve been in the dictionary again, the Google version, at least. On Friday night I was in a sleeveless dress and sandals and thinking about the unnatural qualities of 80-degree weather in February. It has been amazing, truly, and I’ve heard lots of friends hoping for it to be the end of winter, the advent of spring, albeit a full month before the season actually shifts.
It is very easy to wish for such to be true, especially after our record cold spells. I personally love winter, always have, in a way that no Southern-born soul should. I love it when it snows, I like bundling up in winter clothes and snuggling under blankets by a fire. Many of you will hate me for this, but I actually hope we get another snow this year(!). But, even I will admit that it has been nice to have a break from the cold wet weather, to enjoy a glimpse of the spring/summer/fall ahead of us.
So, what could possibly be wrong with wishing for spring to come early?
When it was particularly cold this winter my friends got tired of me saying, “Hopefully, we are killing fleas and mosquitoes and ticks!” Call me a glass-half-full kind of gal, but there’s generally always a bright side. Cold weather can be good for killing bugs, not to mention all of the plants that need the cold weather dormancy to prepare for the spring bloom. Where our honeybees are concerned, unseasonably warm winter weather leads them to come out of their form of hibernation and forage for food that doesn’t yet exist. Warm winters mean we have to feed more often to sustain the higher level of activity that results in no returns. If we don’t stay on top of it they can easily starve to death, all while we sit around in shorts in the sunshine and wish for it to never be cold again.
We also have to keep in mind that, now that this particularly warm stretch has all the trees and shrubs blooming, there is a very good chance that the fire-breathing she-monster of a winter blast will come and kill off any chance for fruit to come to bear this summer. This early bloom can actually be good for the unseasonably foraging bees, but a frost-induced killing of the blossoms would be a terrible byproduct of this lovely warmth. Nature is so complicated!
John Prine wrote a great song called “Dear Abby” about people writing letters of concern about their lives to Abby Van Buren in the newspaper. The chorus has Abby admonishing them, “ …. you have no complaint, you are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t. Now listen up buster, and listen up good. Stop wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood.” The point is: stop believing that your life is bad and wishing for it to be different when you really have nothing to complain about in the first place. Those are some pretty strong words that leave most of us with not a care in the world, right?
The old tale “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs paints the picture of the perils of wishes, the times when a wish becomes that fire-breathing she-monster of Greek mythology. The old couple and their son are warned that they should leave the wishing paw alone, but the illusion of wishes wins out, and sadly plays out in most horrific ways.
I’m not sounding very glass-half-full when I say this, but maybe we should be careful what we wish for!
I can’t say that I’ll stop wishing to win the lottery, heck I might even buy a ticket every now and then, but I guess I will try to be more ok with the winters of struggle in life. The last thing I need is a fire-breathing she-monster in my life. Perhaps we should hope that years from now we aren’t sitting around saying, “Come here and let me tell you about the time I wished on a monkey’s paw for spring to come early…”
Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.