It is March and it is 43, the sky is cloudy and gray, the wind is blowing from the east, the sound of it rising and falling, blocking out birdsong and the dull thunder of the white-capped ocean. I do hear the dog, moving between the yard and the front lot, barking at whatever she has decided it is her duty to herald. It is Wednesday, dump day, and she may well be announcing every vehicle passing on the road, real or imagined. Or she is simply letting the geese know she is on alert should they think of lighting in her domain.
It feels and sounds much colder than it is but it is dreary still, intensifying news increasingly close to us as New York City seems to have become the epicenter of a pandemic in the United States.
Yesterday, when the weather more invited it, I went out and poked around the yard, finding the new red nubs of the peonies and the knotweed, and one exceedingly annoying new leaf of the latter, at least eight feet from the main stand, a shoot that came up to the sun only when it encountered the old cement of the walk. It broke easily and I expect it to be back with the next full sunshine.
The winter has been mild, with virtually no snow since December. I have no thought-out beds of daffodils, most have not been much tended for years, and that they bloom at all is a testament to the everlasting nature of the flowers. There are rows of green spears all about but it is the three little clumps on the south side of the wall that first display colors. Yesterday, one remained promising buds, others cautiously opening flowers, the third bright yellow trumpets in fuller bloom than they were at the end of the first week in April last year.
Spring comes every year, be it in sunshine or snow. Now when I open the door from the hall to the entry I may be startled by a determined little wren, scouting out a nesting spot. The first few times I thought her another sere leaf caught on the wind.
The birds seek out sheltered spots, behind a rake or shovel or a long-unused beach chair, all hung from nails in the exposed framing. Some years I do not even realize they have come, nested, hatched, fledged and fled until another season when I reach for one of these long handled tools and bits and pieces of abandoned nest, twigs and straws and, now, animal hair, rain down on me.
Later, when I went out into the pasture the sun was still shining. The horses, Icelandics with coats evolved over centuries to withstand the deep winter, are beginning to shed, a single swipe of a grooming loop leaving piles of hair on the ground, waiting for birds to claim it. There will soon be piles of pale Autumn undercoat as well.
It was stunningly beautiful, so warm that I dropped my own winter jacket on the fence as Autumn plopped down in the shade. The wind had abated to a breeze, the sun was bright, the land dry but the downpour of the previous night evidenced by a silver-blue lagoon that had not been there a day earlier, nestled in the swale of the field.
Then the clouds shifted, the wind either picked up, again, or became more felt without the distraction of the sun. And the shimmering water in the hollow in the land turned gray and white and textured. It grew to a lake, huge and deep and mythical, a clump of earth that was not submerged became a tiny, moated, kingdom. I almost expected mist to rise, and through it appear a hand, extending from a flowing white sleeve, wielding an ancient sword.
It flipped and the Lady of the Lake (or insert your Monty Python quote of choice) vanished and her watery realm, the puddle turned lagoon turned lake disappeared and in its place appeared, by some unique medley of light and color, an island of sky in a heaving sea of struggling-out-of-winter grass.
Sheltered from the growing breeze, it remained unrippled, and another strange illusion took hold. It was a window in the land, opening onto a sky, a fairytale slit in a mountain side, non-sensical, but these days we take solace where we can.
The drear deepened, I reached for my jacket, the spring day and its fanciful imaginings, vanquished.
March had returned.