Lost Grove Lake

Dave Wiggins of Stockton, Iowa, reels in a fish during a July day in the summer of 2015 at Lost Grove Lake in Scott County. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been stocking the lake since 2012.

Just when I thought February was over, there’s one more day of it.

The end of February is the hardest time of the year for me. It’s been winter long enough that I can’t remember what it was like before all the leaves fell off the trees and the grass turned brown and all the plants were flattened by the weight of snow.

I can’t remember what it was like to walk to work without the crunching sound of salt under my feet. Or that there was a time when I could just walk out the door without stopping to put on a coat and scarf and hat and gloves.

Was there a time like that?

The river has frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed. And a lifetime has passed.

They call it cabin fever, this end-of-February feeling.

I’m starting to pace in my cage. I’m ready for spring. I want to take my socks off. I want to plant something outside. I want to sit on the stoop in the evening.

Yesterday someone said, “Let’s do it in April when the weather will be perfect, before the mayflies get here.” Even the mayflies sounded nice.

I’m ready for long days and open windows and trying Whitey’s Ice Cream for the first time on a hot afternoon.

I’m ready to watch the bridge open from the Dam View Inn, to eat a Bandit dog at Modern Woodmen Park, to search for twisty roads near Andalusia in a convertible, to find that camping spot someone told me about outside of Decorah, right on the banks of the Upper Iowa River. I’m ready to watch the trout rise and to smell like campfire.

My first Iowa winter has wrung me out like a dishrag, squeezed me like that dirty plastic bag that I walk by every day, pressed up against a building wall by someone’s snow shovel weeks ago.

But I’ve noticed that Iowans don’t complain. In fact, when I ask “How are you?” a usual response is “Can’t complain.”

This has been a mild winter. That’s what everyone says as I walk in the door, my eyes watering from the cold and the wind.

You moved here at the worst time of year. They also say that.

My ice scraper broke and now only scrapes off a skinny half inch row of ice at a time. I refuse to buy a new one, because winter is almost over.

Then I realize that February is a day longer this year.

Autumn Phillips is the executive editor of the Quad-City Times and qctimes.com. 563-383-2264; aphillips@qctimes.com; on Twitter @autumnedit.