| ‘Tis mid-March, which means one and all begin looking for signs of spring; any sign, some sign, the least clue that indicates the long and dreary Winter of 2015 is over.
Fortunately, it’s always easy to find such signs, especially when exasperation and desperation are the primary motivations. For example, I was thrilled the other day (you know, the day the temperatures topped 40 degrees for a few glorious hours) to see my old rail fence again. Most winters the top rail is clearly visible thanks to the predictable storm-thaw sequence we enjoy during “normal” winters. This winter, however, the top rail was buried under snow pretty much from December through March. Not only could I not see the rail but the local turkey flock could not perch on it as they left the feeding station, the squirrels could not use it as a convenient highway between the oaks and the pile of wildlife grain in the back yard, and the chickadees could not use it to dismantle the sunflower seeds they selected, one at a time, from the pile outside my office window. Critter traffic was at a standstill most of the winter and so, when I looked across the pasture and saw the top rail fully exposed with six inches of daylight below it, I immediately thought, “Ha! Spring is on the way.”
Never mind that there is still more snow on the ground than we’ve ever had, at least since the record-keepers began keeping records, or that it’s going to take a lot more than one 40-degree day to melt what’s still out there; I saw a sign and it was good enough for me.
One doesn’t enter the spring of the year in Maine without enjoying some instructive roadside reading. Just this week “frost heave” signs have been popping up on back roads and country lanes; sometimes one for each pothole or, in typical New England conservative fashion, one sign for the entire road. It’s hard to imagine that these same roads will be flat, smooth and bustling with traffic in just a few weeks, because right now they are all but impassable at the normal speed limit. In fact, only a fool would ride these roads at or above the posted speed unless tires, hub caps, mufflers and assorted other auto parts are of no concern. I’m already seeing the pre-pothole drag marks of vehicle undercarriages that have left ominous-looking grooves in the pavement before and after each frost heave. Between the holes and the associated break-up of the macadam all around them there can be no doubt that spring is around the corner, along with a hefty realignment bill.
I don’t know if it’s an official harbinger of spring but my roof is actually visible now, or at least the parts I cleared with a roof rake during the last day the temperatures were over 30. It’s amazing how quickly a roof will clear itself if given a fair chance. Clearing the snow off the bottom foot of the roof edge helps the black shingles absorb what little heat there is, thereby melting the ice and snow that’s accumulated on the upper slope of the roof. In places where I had three feet of snow a week ago there are bare shingles showing. The melting seems to go on through the night as well, because the water dripping off the eaves sings me to sleep each evening.
Another sure sign of winter’s demise is the brighter, warmer sun which is coming up earlier and setting later than ever; even with the recent switch to Daylight Saving Time. Lately I’ve been sitting on the porch or deck late in the day to enjoy a cup of tea, and while there’s snow all around and a cool breeze rattling the last of the oak leaves it still feels “better,” which is all I need for encouragement right now.
I usually depend on the wild things to give me my springtime clues, and sure enough this week as I was puttering around clearing snow from around the deck I ran into a chipmunk that seemed more than happy to let me create a path for him to the bird seed. He was a fat, healthy-looking specimen, none the worse for wear after months in hibernation, but the fact that he was scurrying around with a face full of grain suggests that warmer times are soon to be upon us. It may be a sign of something else but as humans we get to do our own interpreting.
I don’t know what Punxsutawney Phil thinks about winter’s end (six more weeks was his prediction back on Feb. 2, although no one actually heard him say so), but the smallest of clues are good enough for me. The snowmobilers, ice-fishermen, skiers and other winter enthusiasts are likely hoping that winter never ends but, alas, none of us really have our wishes fulfilled, at least not for the long term. I am a fan of seasonal changes and enjoy a winter day by the wood stove as much as a cruise around the lake in my kayak or a hike across country during deer season. All of our seasons have their ups and downs and if you wait long enough another will take over, albeit temporarily.
For example, it seems as if I had just put away my fishing gear when hunting season rolled around, and how here it is time to sift through the seed catalogs again (yet another sign that winter is not going to hold on much longer). It all goes by so quickly and every year it seems to speed up another notch.
I’m sure each faithful reader of the Rolling Thunder Express has a personal favorite sign of spring. Cling to it, look for it and rejoice when it happens. Ignore the snow, ice and frost heaves that surround us; spring will come again!