Sunday, March 11, 2012

Subtle signs of spring

I was very hopeful, on my walk this afternoon, of seeing signs of the end of winter. I had reason to hope, for this morning's walk with the dog, 200 hundred miles south in Massachusetts, recorded snow drops out and daffodils and crocuses shooting green and magnolias budding vigorously and many robins and all manner of other birds blatantly singing. On the drive up Route 1 the weeping willows had taken on a yellowish tinge and several motorcyclists were out and about, including one fellow sitting next to his bike on the side of the road, watched over by two policemen, county and state - a sure sign of high spirits and rising sap, if you know what I mean.

Alas, the signs up here in Maine would prove quite subtle. Nothing newly green at all, for example, and no summer birds, except for the usual crows and gulls, and the pack of determined ducks these days overwintering. The vernal pools, at least those parts in the shade, were still iced over, offering no opportunity yet for frogs to emerge from the muck and produce those clouds of future peepers. The swampy areas were not enlivened by the amazing skunk cabbage, the grasses and weeds were still brown and gray. And of course you can't count the virtual lack of snow, save a couple of small piles on the driveway; if that counted, then the whole winter would have been forever perched on the brink of spring.

But there were buds on the alders and blackberry canes, although not much bigger than pinpricks, and I found one pussy willow budding in white, just enough to make me a little desperate. There were two bicyclists riding down Ash Point Drive, does that count? and gloves were not needed, coat barely, and although the wind was cold, it was from the south and the sun was warm alee.

Thin evidence, I know, but one is anxious to throw off whatever intellectual or religious belief systems that get one through the dark days.

And then I saw the answer, the not-so-subtle answer. On Lucia Beach Road several sugar maples were tapped, three with old-fashioned short taps dripping into tin pails and one with a long, clear tube draining into a large orange plastic bucket. On this first day of daylight savings time, what better symbol of joy than life-giving sap, the sweet ichor of the gods, and those gods will forgive me, I'm sure, for not needing them for a few months.

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