End of March
There comes a point toward the end of winter that makes you start to question everything about your life.
Contrary to what you might expect, the unbroken monolithic presence of snow through January and February and the first few weeks of March presents no issue. That's the winter we live for. The hard part comes toward the end of March, when warming temperatures and sunny days have begun to shrink the snowpack. The delicate powder turns to wet cement, turning the shovel sessions from a bracing workout into a chain-gang slog. The paths are treacherous--no longer are you a child floundering hilariously, but a senior citizen trudging feebly, your knees and ankles perilous of a slip.
The only thing that gets me through this madness is knowing that it betokens spring.
And then it snows again.
At this point in the year, even the gentlest flurry is like a slap in the face. You can tell by the way it falls that it won't be good skiing snow--it's common cold snow, heavy and wet, snapping branches, sliding down collars. Even the deer flee from it. It's only prolonging the end of the season.
Those who can flee to visit family in Arizona or Tennessee, or take strategic vacations to parts farther south. The TV commercials chide those who didn't make any such plans--"California; Dream Big!" is a commercial in suspiciously heavy rotation. The Fitz is running a most out-of-character special of tropical mahi mahi. George at Shute's has somehow dug up the funds for another impromptu trip, this time to New Orleans. I lose myself in the pre-season bathing suit sales.
And still it snows.
A sense-dulling, white noise type of snow, the kind that would make you feel foggy-headed and congested even if you weren't suffering from an actual sinus infection. It's almost impossible to believe that just a few weeks ago, you were out every single day, lustily charging the Swedetown trails, bellowing the cold air like a dragon. I migrate the room's warm corners like a goldfish in a bowl, looking anxiously out--who in their right mind would step outside in weather like this? The mail piles up until the mailman, delivering a package, just walks the whole mess to our door. I thank him, bent nearly double in an effort to keep as much of my body away from the draft as possible.
And it keeps on snowing.
The bare patch under the spruce tree by the spring, where the deer have congregated in great numbers as the snow shriveled away, has filled in again. The deer seem as unwilling to accept it as we are. They linger there for a few hours, as if waiting for the ground to reappear. Even when the herd moves on, a few hunker down and lie there with their eyes half closed, their heads rotating intermittently in habitual alertness.
We listen to the opening season ball games on the radio, ignoring the announcers' lament of the temperature--thirty-seven degrees at Comerica Park--the better to imagine that it's spring somewhere not far away, and that it's on its way, as if seasons traveled like storm fronts.
We read and listen to improving music, which feels wonderfully righteous for about two hours.
We watch the Paris Nice--I cringe seeing the racers climb from the warm lowlands into the grey, wet mountain stages. Why? Turn back! There's a beach at the bottom of this mountain, for god's sake.
Finally, I pull out the emergency supplies--my photos from last summer. Fireworks lined up on the Fitz beach. The velvet cove of Bête Grise. My hammock strung on the leaning tamarack at 88 West, me in it. Bryan reading by firelight. Jack playing harmonica below the cries of cranes flying over Farm Block.
I close my eyes and smell the warm cedar of the forest floor, the driftwood smoke and the citronella. I feel the shock of cold water on my skin followed by the rush of blood that rises to meet the sun. Sunburned cheekbones taking sandy kisses. Walleye and wild rice and sour beer. Skipped stones. Agate sunsets.
I wake up from an open-mouth sleep to find that the snow has stopped, and late afternoon sun is patterning the puddle-pocked ground with shadows. The deer are on their feet again, browsing the ground that is once again bare.
It's on its way.