Looking back at the joyride of weather fluctuation we have experienced over the past couple of years, this has been a subtle season.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, let me clarify that statement by saying that yes, I know it’s an absolute bone-chiller outside. But it’s those slight drops in temperature that mean the difference between wind-burned cheeks and blue-tinged frostbite. It’s one (or two) extra layers of socks that leave you with ten toes instead of nine on your journey to the mailbox and back.

It’s the little shifts that add up to big change. After all, an individual life starts out as a very little thing, one tiny thing which continues to grow into a big thing made up of atoms and particles even smaller than that. The Greeks called the small and invisible “atom” and science kept that term for what was once the smallest particle in the world known to humans. Not too very long ago the atom was split into even tinier pieces. One Google search just told me that quarks and leptons are currently in a tie as being the smallest thing. Up to one minute ago I had never heard of a lepton.

The 2014 calendar hasn’t even flipped to February yet and particles are shifting all over the place. Except for a drastic rise into the 40s and subsequent fall to subzero in mid-January, the chill has slowly burrowed through the exterior layers of our cars, roofs and sweaters. I haven’t even heard a snap or pop from expanding river ice. The starlings that live above our bathroom’s ceiling fan haven’t ventured out for a few days because there is no rapid rise of warmth from the rising sun as it shines on the eastern face of my house. By the way, the vent cover blew off during the derecho and neither of us remembered to replace it last summer.

My child is home from college and her blessed self is spending the cold days repainting the interior of the house. I hate to house paint. In that respect, she is not my child. We did share a great time gathering paint chip booklets and posting different samples on the walls of the kitchen, hall, front room and bathroom. We perused drawer pulls and fixtures at Paul’s while we waited for our selected paints to be mixed and shaken. I was so excited that we were finally going to freshen up the walls to cover ten years of muddy tail wags, scuffs and unidentifiable spots that I called a best friend to share my joy.

“What colors are you painting?” asked Julie.

“We’ve picked ‘novel’ for the south wall of the kitchen, ‘sea foam’ for the entry to the hall, ‘hint of mint’ for the plant bridge and ‘tea biscuit’ for the front room,” I exclaimed.

“So you’re painting it white again,” she responded.

No, not white. There are differences in those shades, backgrounds on which to hang bold expressions of art and photographs. It’s the subtleties that one experiences every moment that either direct one’s course or stop and start it altogether. American troubadour Pete Seeger used music to fight for peace and justice for all. He melodically, poetically placed the bug in many an ear, gently but firmly furthering those causes in which he believed. We all lost Seeger this week, but the beat goes on.

On Friday morning during morning chores, I watched my Steven carry the cold form of my nemesis Bernie the Rooster to the edge of the woods. Bernie was somewhere around eight years in age before he died in the coop Thursday night. For five of those years he did his best to plant both of his leg spurs in my leg calves. I sprained my ankle for the first time doing a dance with Bernie, prompting my boss to give me a car ride to St. Rita’s as my ankle swelled after my arrival at the office. As my family tearfully observed Bernie’s passing, we recalled the message that my hilarious boss left on the answering machine, “I’m taking your wife to the hospital. She was in a cockfight.”

The life of one red rooster may not seem remarkable, but my very ill father enjoyed Bernie stories. That bird took care of the hens, refusing to eat his feed until the girls had had their fill. This spring may bring another rooster into my life. It will certainly mean the installation of a new bathroom vent cover once the starlings have flown their winter coop. For right now, I’ll mark the march from winter to spring with hot showers under bird song and warm whitish walls. It’s the little things that will get us to spring. Like leptons.