March is usually snowstorms and mud, mud and snowstorms but this March has been warmth, thaw, and mud. I have not kept track but it seems we have had warm weather for the past three or so weeks, with a few high wind storms thrown in to keep us honest. In the beginning of this month, we had about three feet up here, the result of two back-to-back storms but since then, I have watched the snow recede from the window beside my desk like a tide going out. I can smell the mucky earth coming forth and watch the ice rot. Some days, I have gone out for walks without a jacket, which feels free and easy, a reward well-earned. My dogs run as if given new life. I never want to rush this time of year. Like coming to the end of a good book, I tend to want to slow it down, move slowly through the warming days.
But so many have cut and run from all this. A friend sent me a photo from her timeshare in Cancun: turquoise sky meets azure sea, a tall palm tree and peach-colored beach umbrellas the only objects in the big blue expanse. Looking at that scene, I could feel the sun on my bare skin, smell the salt air and the coconut lotion, and hear the surf roll indolently up on shore. It all looked so tranquil. And I heard today from a friend who ordinarily lives nearby but who has spent the better part of this winter in California and Florida. She says she has decided that spending the winter in warm and forgiving climates is quite nice indeed. I guess she has plenty of company, as the population in places like that swells sometimes ten and twentyfold during the cold months. So she is not alone in her sentiment. She writes of the easy pace, the sense of peace there, and, she continues on, as if to convince me: “If you are a person who enjoys reading, movies, sitting with a stack of books by the pool, and a good Sunday brunch at the country club, then it is quite nice indeed. The fact that my parents’ house is wide open to the outdoors and perched at the edge of a broad canal creates a sense of air and sky and space. All day, the light pours in; the sliders are open; it is like living outdoors. There are fish flopping and pelicans perching on the dock and herons stalking through the yard. I wake up in the dark, and work for a bit, go to the health club down the road to exercise, do yoga by the pool, read a lot.”
It all sounds idyllic. There must be something wrong with me but I can’t be sold. For one thing, I couldn’t bear to be gone that long, to miss the tiny increments that move us toward spring. We have gotten through Town Meeting. Throughout the long weeks of Lent, I rehearse, with the church choir, the joyful songs of Easter and we look forward to sharing that day of — renewal together. And, of course, like hungry pilgrims searching the horizon for land, we all notice the little signs of spring, and cry out the news. Crocuses in a lawn in Keene. Daylilies emerging around my foundation. One friend tells of all the robins who seem to have “come out of nowhere, so suddenly.” I’ve observed the bobolinks returning soon they will be nesting in the hayfield. I have heard the soulful, two-note cry of the redwing blackbird, always the first call of my spring and, most celebratory, the return of the bluebirds.
There is always so much at this time of year to keep me busy. My woodpile is down to the point where I start making bets with myself if there will be any left over (which means I will have to move it out of the way so I can use the porch for summer) or if I will run out and have to use the oil burner. I like it when it comes out just right, which it sometimes does. (That whole process, by the way, has a dual purpose, not just the resultant heat but bringing in the wood, a daily chore, is a combination of squats, weight-lifting, and curls. And the air is better than what it must be like inside the health club.)
The snow is almost gone but they are talking about a possible snowstorm next week. It’s been such a mild winter, I say, let it snow, I haven’t quite had my fill. And a spring snowstorm never lasts very long. I do have a stack of books here, towering in fact, waiting for me to read them. The mild winter deprived us of those luxurious snow days, nothing to do but bake beans and stay home and read. So I am way behind. I don’t know. One warm day after the next, the unbroken azure sky, pelicans perching, herons stalking. It all sounds nice, nice to think about, but I’d sooner here, mud, sleet, wind, whatever, each day different and the drama of it all.