Once Upon the Cusp of Spring
Unending snow has visited these northern woods and hills, beginning before Thanksgiving. Even snowshoes cannot carry me to the descending ridge where a trail camera captures wildlife. Deer and coyote roam the white landscape all winter long, while bear, skunks, and raccoon sleep soundly, as if wearing off a bit too much of the bubbly.
March arrived carrying light to the world. The sun stays longer and brighter and I no longer need to capture the deer on camera. Snow is still deep, two or three feet out of the wind. The deer have run out of browse in the swamps and come close to the house to eat planted greens. By tens and twelves and twenties deer struggle through the snow, sneak out in twilight, and leave tracks and sign in runs all along the farm.
Still-living Christmas trees, ghosts of holidays past, planted in the yard, become salad bars, buffets for the needy. And the deer are needy, needy of the sun to melt the snow cover and reveal the grasses hibernating beneath. Spring must come soon or the weak among the whitetail will die. One more strong storm from Alberta will simply dampen the spirits of man, while for many creatures, the bell will toll.
Inside we change our clocks. Someone told us it was time.
Outside the world changes day by day.
This morning the Garden Lady peeked out from beneath the blanket. She is not the Madonna, though a minor goddess of sorts. She helps my garden and vineyards grow. She soothes me when I ache from toil. She effortlessly spreads peace with the water she bestows to the earth in an endless cycle.
The Garden Lady showed her head and shoulders adorned by a glow reflecting from the white snow. Her arms and the water basket she tends remain covered. She is shy, perhaps?
She teases, knowing all. Weeks remain before the soil will be ready to receive seed. M’lady will yet spend many mornings alone in the dawn light ere I toil in her pleasant company.
Uncovered at long last, the earth shows herself above the drain field. A fine thing, the first visible grass of late winter, no matter what warms and melts the snow.
The earth will be a bit messy through late March and well into April. What hidden secret will next be revealed?
Places in the long grass where ashes from the woodstove were strewn?
The signs of animals, domestic and wild?
Brittle branches blown by winter winds once lying cold beneath white blankets?
With the Vernal Equinox much is exposed. Much is rekindled, warmed, and brought to the surface. Feelings, too, I think, harbored in winter’s solitude, will be set free.
In the predawn light, shapes may not be what they appear. The sun may come and shine, may expose the shadows. Or, as now, clouds may cover the dawn in darkness.
How do I write a love scene? How do I reduce to paper the essence of our lives? Like the sun, where no description remains unturned? Or in moonlight or under the clouds, where every movement, every feeling, every sense, can remain exactly as we wish our lives to be?
Three soft inches through the night. An army of chickadees dive through snow to uncover buried sunflower seeds. A red bellied woodpecker swoops in to attack the caged cake. The chickadees scatter, flutter and return. A boisterous blue jay struts about, flips between the bare snowball bush and the scattered seeds strewn about the ground snow. The sun shines. The birds must sing though it is through the window I watch and cannot hear.
Be bold, they cry out. Fear not, birds sing.
Like spring, love will return with the flowers.
I rise unknowing in the time between dark and light, between night and dawn. I am drawn to the window, hypnotized by the moon traveling between trunks of bare trees.
In the light of morning, the white moon has gone below the horizon of a western ridge. I make French Canadian pancakes. French for the nature of the crepe and Canadian for the natural ingredients:
- A number eight cast iron pan inherited from Grandma Ada – warm on the gas burner, a touch of safflower oil helps season the iron.
- 2 cups cracked whole wheat flour, ½ cup baking flour.
- ¾ cup natural brown sugar.
- Cinnamon – use liberally.
Mix dry ingredients with a wooden spoon in old white crock, a survivor from the past.
- 3 cups or so of milk and mix for consistency desired, known by feel. Add fresh Mexican vanilla liberally and remember to add one egg.
When the oil looks just right in the pan, pour the extra oil in a ceramic cup and set aside.
Pour about ¾ cup of batter into the center of the pan. Pick up the pan (make sure you have a towel for the handle) and swirl batter into a thin circle, or a shape something like a circle. Shapes are fun.
When bubbles appear throughout the shapes, flip.
Cook until the crepe begins to rise.
Butter liberally and pour on homemade maple syrup.
For a variation, roll link sausage into the crepe.
Guaranteed to please most any palate.
Smoke rises from the chimney, a result of a rekindled morning fire. How do I know as I look out a window? Well, the shed roof is partially covered in snow, and the portion not covered glistens, reflecting the rising sun. And blocking the shine are shadows from wafts of smoke.
Irish children dance this day. Legs move briskly, bodies float from side to side, while shoulders appear to remain still. Sticks with moving legs. And the beat is lively, the pipe sweet, the drums low and steady.
I walked on top of crusted snow like Jesus on the sea, my weight suspended mostly, except when I broke through, as if being hung without a noose, and one leg sunk to the groin. My other leg remained high on a crest, so I danced though my upper body was not still like the Irish children, my step not nearly as lively.
The deer dance, too and sometimes sink. I cringe as one foreleg falls awkwardly into the sharp crusted snow, scraping fur. Blood oozes onto the white snow. Coyotes smell from a distance.
Today should be the last day of winter, the deep snow should melt away, for the woodpile is nearly gone, gone too soon. Eight cords burned. I should have put up ten.
Yesterday I heard the piper in the form of a child. Innocent and caring, my grandson gives ethereal hugs with his music. His love is pure.
I search for answers in a coffee cup. A white heart formed on top of the brown froth, sent out like an arrow, a spirit arrow. Only the arrow knows where it will land.
The arrow flew round the circle of the world and returned, again filling my cup.
The day of the Vernal Equinox, occurring at precisely 12:57 pm here above latitude 45 north. I feel peace at the moment the world achieves balance.
Another inch or so overnight but spring is in the air, or at least my mind wills it so. I stretch with new vigor. My breathing full and in rhythm with all that is.
The sun found the surface on the second day of spring and still glistens white. Anticipation and impatience stir the juices that flow somewhere beyond this day.
On the last frosty clear night, I tossed three cloves of hay to the pony and walked back toward the house. Through the dark country sky, Orion stood proudly in the southwest. Directly in line above his head, Jupiter watched over the hunter, the seeker, the adventurer. Venus, the beauty, watched too, from her comfortable corner in the southeast.
I have finally reached the bottom of the woodpile and picked split logs from the icy grip of the frozen soil. Dirt clings to the wood, not wanting to let go, refusing to forget winter, as if to tell me,
Refuse to forget.
Refuse to compromise.
Hold fast to hope.
Grip freedom by a slippery tail.
Be ever vigilant.
Hold fast to life.