Signs of spring

When the phone rang the other day, my heart did its little “Ooooh…somebody’s checking in on us!” dance and my feet had to join in to carry me to the other end of the house by the third ring. Caller ID said it was Becky calling from Moab, Utah, and I got breathless. What a nice girl, calling to check in so we won’t worry about her making it through the long, harsh winter all alone out there!

“Hi, Mom! It’s 65 degrees and I’m in flip-flops, shorts and a tee-shirt!”

“Great, honey…awesome!” I said. Although I kept my voice light, my upper lip instinctively curled into the kind of snarl a dog does when you put a treat just out of reach and then snatch it away.

“How about you guys?” she wanted to know. “Got much snow left?”

“Yeah, you might say that,” I said, shuffling back to the window. I knew I could give her a Rangeley weather update without up-to-the-minute visual clarification, but I still needed to look one more time just the same. No longer propelled by happy feet, my walk slowed to the pace I get when I go on food recognizance in the IGA. I gazed outside with that same expectant look I get when I survey the grocery aisles—thinking maybe if I search really hard, I’ll see something new—my favorite tea, or maybe more produce from distant, exotic lands. But, once again faced with the evidence, I must accept what’s right in front of me. The snow piles and contours in my back yard are just as I remembered from the last surveillance. I can look away, blink a bunch of times, or hide my head like a spoiled kid. But when I look again, not much will have changed. Although I am starting to see some bare roof shingles on my out buildings, and I’ve heard tell there’s a patch of pussy willows somewhere between here and Stratton, for the most part it seems spring is hiding away in the land of gourmet tea, green, leafy vegetables and flip-flops.

“Remember those pictures I posted of the back yard on Facebook?” I asked Becky. “That was two storms and another foot of snow ago.”

“Woah,” she said. “The grass is all green here and I got a sunburn playing volleyball yesterday!”

“Humph,” I replied. “Well, I’m down to just one layer of underwear, I got to leave my ear flaps up all day yesterday, and if the dogs jump really high I can see them out in their pen above the drifts. So, no grass yet, but there’s a big brown spot up the end of the driveway we’re hoping is dirt!” Thanks for sharing, I told Becky, and to make sure she put sunscreen on. Right after she hung up, I’m pretty sure she called her sister and asked her to drive up from New Hampshire just to double-check on us.

I’ve known for years that these Western mountain lakes generate their own weather and the winter-to-spring cycle can run slower than cold molasses. Now that I’m here year-round to actually witness the process, it must be like watching the proverbial pot boil, and Old Man Winter really isn’t taking any longer than normal to loosen his grip and let spring take over. But I’m thinking there is some twisted connection between our prolonged winter and the sign out in front of the Oquossoc Grocery. As of this posting, it no longer reads “Do the Snow Dance!” which we apparently did with abandon. Now it declares “Snow All Year Round!” I’ve never actually seen anyone out there changing the letters on that sign. The words just somehow appear in the middle of the night. If I wasn’t so petrified of ladders, I just might get up there and alter its cosmic energy pull. Something like “Spring: It’s a Fun Season Too!” might do the trick.

Folks in other social circles are blaming this year’s tough winter on a mixed up Ground Hog’s Day prediction. Back in February, he emerged from his hole and said spring was just six weeks away. The nerve of that wood chuck! How could he and his stuffy handlers come out with all their pomp and circumstance and say that? Aren’t there laws against false advertising? Shadow or no shadow, I wasn’t paying all that much attention. Up here, we don’t have Punxsutawney Phil or anything close. We have a bad ass red squirrel who hangs out in the shadow of the wood shed hogging all the bird seed, and he’s not real prophetic.

Tom and I did manage to have ourselves a little spring fling when we learned we’d be getting some money back on our taxes. It wasn’t a terribly huge sum as far as those things go, just enough for us to splurge on some California vegetables to go with supper, and to dive into the Margarita mix we’d kept cold since summer hoping for such an occasion. Thanks to springing the clocks ahead, we could still see the big expanse of white that used to be our lake from the dining room window. We toasted to that, to our most memorable winter yet, and to warmer days ahead. By a few sips in, we started to feel downright tropical. A few sips later, we recalled a winter vacation when we tried to describe Rangeley to our boat captain in the Turks and Caicos. Tom told him that yes, we had a boat of our own, but since our lake was iced over we had to wait till May to launch it again.

Our guide gazed down at the turquoise water like he was trying to form a picture that just wouldn’t come into focus, and slowly shook his head. “Only ting ice be good for, mon, is puttin’ in drink!” he said.

He did have a point, we agreed, swirling our frozen Tequila around in our drinking jars. But ice had also come in real handy for holding us up on our snowshoes out on the lake too. “It sure was pretty out there this winter,” we concluded. Not Caribbean pretty, but a different, breathtaking kind of pretty that warmed our hearts and invigorated all our senses. We drank to that, too, and did a little spring dance.

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