Fri, 03/10/2017 - 9:45am
Last week the thickest of fogs descended, putting us into an echo chamber without walls, a fun house filled with sound rather than crazy mirrors. It blew away and the lion of March hesitated, then pounced, sending temperatures dropping as quickly as a stone tossed into a bottomless well of ever-darkening water. 

The tide rose, reaching far up into the winter-dull grasses around the inner ponds of the New Harbor. The tide fell and the wet left behind flash froze, leaving a white border, a clean version of the wrack line marking the highest reach of the ocean. The cold painted the jagged breakwater boulders with that same flashing brightness and left paper skims of ice floating on the water.

It was a bit of a surprise, after this winter of mild, broken by deep but fleeting cold and snows that were beautiful but brief, lingering only in the shadows and where the highest drifts formed along old walls.

The highlights of the season have been few: a snowy Saturday in January, turned to a Sunday of cold but stunningly clean after-the-storm scrubbed air; a mid-week short-lived blizzard in February that did far more damage to the mainland than to us; and another cold Sunday morning in March.

I heard the forecast for that last cold, I saw the numbers, but somehow could not bring myself to believe the near warm could so quickly be displaced and did not move my car to a spot where it would be hit by morning sun. It may be of little consequence, especially in late December, but perhaps, maybe, now that the dawn comes earlier, after a shorter night, it might. If, that is, I were to able to accept the forecast and make the effort.

Despite being left shielded from the early sun, my vehicle surprised and delighted me by starting when the temperature hung in the teens. I wonder if it would have but for a carelessness a week earlier when I dared tempt fate by thinking a dead battery had not been a problem all winter. A few mornings later, I realized I had left the rarely-used map light, that does not extinguish automatically, on all night.

It was not so cold, nor was it raining, and I discovered the problem just as the neighbor with his ever ready cables was arriving home for lunch. “But I have cables,” I always insist, a long-ago purchase made as a sort of insurance against these mistakes, but by that time he is out of his truck, his own in hand. 

He proffered the usual reminder that the battery would not properly charge in the few minutes it would take me to drive to the harbor, and I needed to let the engine sit and run, contrary to every reflex born of years of turning that key as soon as I stop. First, I did remember not to shut it down, then forgot the car was sitting, humming happily.

Yes, it was wasting gas but it also served to charge a fading battery so completely that a night of what I can only call absurd cold did not sap the energy newly stored. 

Once in a great while unintended consequences work to our advantage.  

Today it is March the Pretender; by early afternoon the sun is shining.

Last night I could not see the red lights of the turbines, nor did there appear to be out on the water any of the vessels that give the dark winter seascape the look of a sparsely populated village. The dog had come in dry just a bit earlier but we were on the edge of certainty of more of the rain that had fallen intermittently during the day.

There are depths of color, an angle of light, a brush of air, even a fragrance on the breeze, all belonging to certain seasons and even months. They are part of the cyclical nature of our world, new wonders until we look back on pages written other years, sometimes the same week. 

Then there is March, always returning to bleak and drear, trying to undo the glory of longer days with weather deserving no better description than “lousy.”

It was that March that came in the night, in a burst of wind driven rain, a sound that imparts a feel that pushes aside sure knowledge of rising daffodil spears and forsythia buds and hints of new life even after a winter far less mild than this one. The forecast is rounds of more of the same, including the possibility of snow, but there is none of the road-closing mud that has been the historic signature of this month. 

By mid-morning the distant horizon was clean, unsoftened by hazy air, but the world was without shadow. The tall white towers that are so visible when the sun is bright melded into the pale sky. Earlier, the dog fancied she saw something out in the south once-upon-a-time pasture. She stood on my bed and fussed and I pulled aside the gauzy lace that puts its own layer of fog over the view and looked for something, anything, moving out there. 

Deer blend into the winter-brown brush, but their presence is betrayed by the slightest motion, before they flip their white tails and bound toward heavier cover. There were none in sight. Neither was there any sign of activity next door, of any vehicle moving on the road to the beach, nor my own favorite “look, look!” of my Autumn's whimpering – no early ferry chugging past. 

The morning was a reminder that the clocks spring ahead — I write as though they do it of their own will — this weekend. It is too early, erasing over a month of hard-earned morning sun, pushing the dawn back to the wrong side of seven, a barrier that does not bear re-visiting. Every gain need not be measured against a loss, especially in March.