Archive for March 2011

The Winter That Wouldn’t Die

March 28th, 2011 — 1:17pm

Lately, newspaper mentioned cheap air fare

I gotta to fly to Saint Somewhere

Im close to bodily harm…

This mornin’

I shot six holes in my freezer

I think I got cabin fever

Somebody sound the alarm…

–Jimmy Buffett, “Boat Drinks”


I can relate. We’re at the tail-end of March and there are still a couple of feet of snow in my front yard. The good news, I suppose, is that the Flamingometer is mostly pinkā€”the male’s body, though not his legs, is visible above the crusty white, and you can see the female’s neck and back feathers (if plastic versions can be called feathers). Our pet herd of deer is having an easier time getting to the bird feeder, which they systematically empty as soon as it’s refilled.


A couple of weeks ago



But, really, at this point we’re supposed to be solidly into Mud Season, that last purgatorial stage before true spring, which in these parts generally arrives in late April. Picture a kid trying to roll his tiny Matchbox car through a pan of uncooked brownie mix, and you have an idea of car travel on Vermont’s dirt roads this time of year. On the paved ones, it’s more like the Cyclone at Coney Island, bouncing you between yawning potholes and towering frost heaves that make you wonder if maybe we’re in an earthquake zone after all.

Mud Season reliably begins most years on or around the Ides of March. We slog and bounce and suffer through about a month of it before seeing the slightest fuzzy hint of green on the trees and shrubs. It’s the price we pay for maple syrup: cold nights, sunny days, the thermometer up and down like a yo-yo, getting a nice pumping action going in the tree trunks that gets the sap dripping with a pleasant “ping!” into the metal buckets still used by traditionalists. Daytime temperatures flirt with forty, and there’s enough sunshine to begin recharging the body’s Vitamin D supplies.

But this year the thermometer is just down, there are daily snow flurries, and Mud Season, demoralizing as it is, hasn’t even started. Everyone I know is grumpy, but there’s no point in complaining, because it’s happening to all of us. And, besides, compared to the poor folks in Japan whose world was literally swept out from under them, or the brave citizens of the Middle East rising up against their ruthless oppressors at last, we haven’t much to complain about, really.

That said, I could only shake my head when I stopped in at the local florist’s to buy some daffodils to add a little bright color to the surrounding monochrome. “My distributor hasn’t had them for a couple of weeks,” she said. We’re a month away from daffodils of our own, and you can’t even buy them in a store any more!

“April is the cruelest month,” T.S. Eliot famously began “The Waste Land,” his ode to the dissolution of Civilization as we Knew It. He’s commonly thought to have been writing about the trenches of the Somme. Northern New Englanders know better: he was holed up on some back road in Vermont, before the invention of Netflix or even the VCR. This year, it looks as if the cruelty is going to stretch into May.


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