Monday, March 14, 2011

Late late winter, spring approaching

I always call this time of year late winter, but last night I realized it’s latest winter: barely a week until the Spring Equinox.

Spring Equinox has such a pretty sound. All of those old-fashioned seasonal terms do – solstice, equinox, harvest moon – but yesterday it was particularly inspiring to think of spring starting in just another week. The past couple of days haven’t exactly been sunny and warm, but they have definitely held a hint of winter’s retreat. With temperatures above freezing all weekend, the snowbanks are rapidly melting away from the edge of the roadway, and mud is beginning to advance over much of the ground where snow has laid claim for the past three months.

The brook is rushing, not reaching alarming levels yet but starting to run high as it does every spring; with this much water swelling the banks, there’s no chance it will freeze again. And the cows seem to sense the change in season as well: even though a mix of snow and mud still cover the fields where in a few more months they’ll graze, they’ve been wandering over to the brook and out to the far pasture recently, whereas in the dead of winter they don’t leave the hard-packed dirt right in front of the hay barn. Even without the option of grazing, they seem curious to see what’s new in the woods and across the field, or maybe they’re just restless, but it’s inspiring to see them roaming beyond their usual tightly circumscribed winter route of barn to trough and back.

The kids exclaimed with delight when they spotted chipmunks this weekend, and the dog chased a flock of geese out of the field. I think she was as happy to be running fast over the rapidly diminishing snow cover as she was to think she could catch a fowl, which of course she can’t. But the geese and the chipmunks alike are a sign of spring encroaching.

And yesterday we turned the clocks forward, which gives us the first hint of summer’s long sunlit evenings. Summer still feels far away: the temperature is after all only in the 40’s, and with the depth of snow we had this winter, it could still be weeks before the last of it melts away. But indeed, it’s late late winter: spring begins next week. The earth, the sky, the animals all seem ready to transition into a new season, and I too welcome the softness in the air, the light in the sky, the muddy ground, the certainty that spring will soon arrive.

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