Frostless Earth


“At least we’re having a real winter,” a voice chirped behind me.

I was on line at the Post Office, the continual Postal line that too clearly reminds me of this lengthy winter. The perky voice was not responsible for my irritation so I resisted the urge to grumble discordant displeasure. She was right after all, we are having a real winter, a winter that refuses to end.

Everywhere I hear snippets of conversations that go like this, “Gee, haven’t seen you around much lately, where you been.”

“Oh, I’ve been laying low, hibernating. Some winter, huh?”

Conversations invariably end with the same tag line, “Some winter, huh?” Indeed, old man winter has been a pretty tough customer this year and shows little sign of releasing his relentless grip.

I guess you could say it all began back in October. Temperatures during most of that month were ten to fifteen degrees below normal. Snow arrived in November and has been with us ever since.

It has been a pretty winter. The drab browns and grays of mud and skeletal trees have been pleasantly absent this year. Christmas Day, January and February near-blizzards put a halt to most travel and were magnificent. There was an ease and beauty to those storms, even in their blustery depths.

I surrendered to those tempestuous days rather than fight the battle of futility. I figure it’s mighty foolish fighting and complaining, trying to change things over which I have no power. The road crews worked long hard hours and the highways and streets were clear and passable the next day, except of course in the municipal lot in Hudson, but that’s another story.

Yes, this has been a New England post card winter. The frosting coated landscape this winter would have thrilled even Frederic Church who rode out the March 11,1888 blizzard. I experienced the same excitement during this winter’s storms as when I was a kid, when delight and pleasure was taken proportionately with each deepening accumulated inch.

This stated, I am now becoming weary of snow, there has been so much white everywhere that white walls are beginning to annoy me. I am tired of squinting. I’m tired of Grand Canyon size potholes, too.

March is a cruel transitional month. No wonder the March Hare was “Mad.” Emerson wrote, “Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour.” There’s barely clear ground enough to even consider putting up a kite, to soar to lofty heights on the drying winds of this March, and that is cruel. March by all accounts arrived with the lion’s roar, so I am hopeful for a lamb’s fleecy exit.

I was once in Rome during March. They were having an early spring that year. The calla lilies were tall and swayed magnificently in the wind. Late one night I came upon the spot where it’s believed Julius Cesar met his demise. I stood peering into the old archeological excavation; it resembled a sunken park, below street level. That’s the way it is in Rome, you’re walking down a street, round a corner and bam, there’s some relic of the Empire gone, sometimes the smallest ruin, sometimes the Pantheon. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but indeed the ground below in the ruin, was moving. The moon crept above a tiled roofline, shedding light sufficient to reveal cats, hundreds of them. I chuckled lightly at the notion cats now ruled Cesar’s great domain.

As the moon rose large and full I realized it was the15th, the Ides of March. The slightest shiver electrified my spine. “Et tu, Brute?” I whispered and headed back to my room leaving that March night to the feline moon and the calla lilies.

Lengthy, frigid and harsh this winter has been. I’ve noticed more red tail hawks than usual. Someone told me he saw a hawk swoop down and snatch a cardinal from a tree recently; pickings are desperately slim. The other day Marge Grabowski reminded me of an old saying, “If there’s fog in February, there’ll be frost in May.” I shivered at that one, too. The snow pack should be good for the farmers and the orchards and the reservoirs are full, the abundance of nature’s blessing.

Two weeks ago near the Massechusetts border I spied two robins, a week later another near Blue Stores. The robin remains our first indicator, a sentinel song of winter’s numbered days. Trout season opens in two weeks, streams will be swift and cold running, waders, lures and poles retrieved from winter sheds and garages.

The vernal equinox is ours in three days time. So, no matter what tricks March may still hold, the smell of warm turned frostless earth, the brilliant glory of forsythias and lilacs will soon be ours to behold. A new season will consume us. Celebrate, take great joy and delight in the coming of spring.

We’ll talk next time From The Road.

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