Sunday, April 06, 2008


In the Hour of Not Quite Spring

We're almost there, if May 1 is your idea of almost.

We are entering what locals call Vermont's Fifth Season, mud season. All the ice on our hundreds of miles of dirt roads combines with all the salt poured on them in the course of winter to make roads a knee-deep experience. It's when the sap runs, the syrup boils.

The snows have mostly receded to reveal the mess of winter underneath--the dead grass, broken branches, layered duffs and dusts. The other day I passed the complete skeleton of an animal, probably a deer, that had been hit by a car and then buried under the snow for the long winter. It was strangely beautiful, all that inner architecture.

Winter conceals more than skeletons.
When we can step back out into the street to chat leisurely and learn just what has been going on behind all those closed doors for the last several months, we learn that longtime neighbors and familiar pets down the street have died. We learn of folks who have withdrawn into the elusive and isolated reaches of old age. The seasons cycle through and whisper to us of our mortality.

We'll have rain and snow till May, more quickly melted by a seductive sun that tricks us into thinking that perhaps winter's over early. An up side of global warming, ha ha. Last year we threw the kayaks on the car on a particularly warm April day and blasted over to our favorite pond, only to find that it still was frozen solid. Made you look. Then the roads will swell with final frost heaves, and any pansies we bought in our impatience will wither on the porch from the frosts. We warned you that they weren't hardy. Too bad.

In my 18 years here I've learned to wait. Really, I say, the first day of spring in Vermont is May 1. Old timers tell me about snowstorms in May, frosts in July. March is forever. Eliot was almost right: April really is the second cruelest month. There are the jokes: if spring (or summer) falls on a Sunday, we take a picnic. If you don't like the weather, wait a minute.

It drizzled all day today. I opted for true Sunday afternoon decadence, watching The Crawling
Eye, through one eye. It was delightfully dismal, like the day. A day to waste.

These attempts at cynicism aside, soon we'll be out by the pond, pitching cracked corn to the ducks and marveling at the growth of the children who rode in carriages only last year. We'll squeeze as many flowers and fresh vegetables out of the soil as our short season will bear and hustle to keep up with the manic growth of the weeds.

Till then we throw another log on the fire, draw close together, and wait.

I'm not sure I could stand that weather up there.
I love New England but one had to pay dearly to exist in all that snow.
Take heart! The flowers are blooming in Oregon, even though the tender blooms have had to endure some frosty gusts & harsh hail. I am now in the nation's mid section- Illinois, and 2 weeks ago they got 9 inches of snow, the bulbs are starting to poke their green heads from the ground & the sun is shining. Hooray! Folks around here tell me they had double the average snowfall this year & they add- they are *sick of winter*. In an act of hope & the desire to snap a few pics for a book of photo memories from the house for Mom & posterity.... I will plant some flowering plants in the wishing well & hope for the good weather to stay.
all this talk about five seasons 'bout got sap rising here
I will take southwest winters for a hundred Alex. ;p
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