Out like a lamb-eating Yeti

Good thing nobody said it, at least not within earshot and, in particular, not while I was looking outside on the first full day of spring. Watching fresh snow pile up on the glaciers not yet receded from my yard, I knew that somewhere somebody was saying it: “Gee, looks like March isn’t going out like a lamb this year!”

“Looks like! Not unless it’s a lamb to the slaughter,” I imagined myself having to reply with a fake giggle. Luckily, I didn’t have to respond or come up with any new twists on restating the obvious. Alone in my kitchen with the Weather Channel on mute and my cupboards full from my last trip to town, I had no need to socialize and no risk of rehearing the same, lame, lamb-to-lion analogy I’ve heard every March since 1956. So I just stood there, staring at the latest blizzard. And, except for a couple feeble, lion roar sighs, I kept quiet as a lamb.

It’s human nature, I know, to lighten our Man versus Nature defenselessness by making trite fauna and flora seasonal correlations. We find the rote repetition of habitual phrases soothing—especially this year in these parts. Way back when, somebody worth listening to must have looked to the heavens and made a proclamation, right? “In like a lion…out like a lamb!” he announced and probably etched out some pictographs to record the whole story. Some years, he must have been right. Most years, his clan must have pointed to the faded drawings and retold the tale while hunkered down in whatever could shelter them from the unpredictable March weather. And the saying stuck.

I’m not sure what sort of creature this March is, but I know my daughters would have fun drawing it. Back when they were the only kids in the universe not allowed Game Boys, they used to occupy themselves during long car rides to Rangeley by challenging each other to morph as many animals as they could think of into one sketch. “This time, draw a moose-leopard-eagle-rhinoceros,” one or the other would declare, and the car would stay quiet from South Paris nearly to Rumford. I found one of the resulting animorph masterpieces shoved in an old dresser yesterday. Not really in full spring cleaning mode, but feeling like I should start taking baby steps in that direction, I was sorting through some 20-year-old camp stuff. Folded up next to a dog chewed Barbie, I came upon a pencil drawn creature with a long alligator tail, and both bird talons and moose hooves to balance his lion-like head on his camel-humped body. It was enough to snap me out of any sour weather doldrums I’d let myself slip into.

“Just keep laughing,” I told myself. “It’s all good. Spring has been finding its way up here every year without you around to fidget over it, so keep the faith.” For an extra boost, I dug out my brightest spring green sweater and put it on. Over coffee, I changed my Elmer Fudd-like Facebook picture to a profile of me enjoying warm weather and a bright blue shoreline. But when those strategies failed to do the trick, I knew it was time to shift into full-throttle attitude adjustment mode—to rely on my tried and true home remedy for keeping my chin up and my thoughts prosperous: Put the right gear on my feet, point them away from the cabin, and just get out there!

The right footwear part of my plan is crucial to its effectiveness, I’ve learned. Choose wrong, and a brisk walk to gain fresh air and a new perspective can easily turn into a death march. In January, in Ice Road Tracker, you might remember me professing my love for Yaktrax which, back then, were just the thing for keeping me safe and vertical during my daily walks. Well, I’m much worldlier now, and my needs have matured. Once my road surfaces got really serious from repeated thawing and refreezing, I had to ditch my Yaktrax like a middle-school crush. Lately, I’ve been going out with real studs—metal ones strapped to my boots so I don’t cripple myself six ways to Sunday taking a walk. And, when I want a real fling, I can still strap on my snowshoes and get way out there.

“I guess we’ll still be walkin’ on the wild side a few more weeks,” I concluded as I reacquainted myself with my snowshoes. My gear of choice the other day, they helped me negotiate my luge track of a driveway till I was once again trekking up my favorite hillside across the road. As usual, it wasn’t long before my attitude fell in step as I made my way up the path that always brings me back to center. No matter what kind of footwear and how much resolve it took, I’d walked this path—in summer, through winter, and back into the promise of spring. And, along the way, I’d eaten raspberries sweet as the August sun, watched lupines bloom and hibernate, and a moose leading her yearling to browse. On a snowy day not so different from this, I’d brought my first Rangeley Christmas tree down off the hill with me. Once again reaching the top on the first blustery day of spring, I paused to appreciate my place overlooking the lake and mountains, and the reasons why I was there came back into focus. As I pointed my feet homeward, I could feel the sun gaining strength and hear the gurgle of melting run-off finding its way down Bemis  beneath the snow. Spring was under there somewhere, I could feel it.

By the time I reached home, my Elmer Fudd hat was crusted over with new snow again. But even though I had to inch down the driveway like a drunken penguin, my smile didn’t fade. Not much can stop me from strapping on gear and getting out there, I’ve determined. I have given up, though, on trying to decide exactly what kind of creature the month of March is. He’s a gnarly one, I figure, with thick fur and long, ice gripping talons on the end of his paws—a beast that eats little lambs for breakfast. Whatever he looks like, I sure hope he lets spring come to Rangeley sometime before April showers bring May flowers.

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