Year To Year

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 7:30pm

It is April. All of the requisite calendar markers have been passed, the gas station is open on Sunday, the boat is making more runs, the grocery closes later, some restaurants are opening over weekends, others posting countdown notices until they will welcome diners.

What happened to the winter I wonder, how did I let another March slip through my fingers without accomplishing at least some of those tasks put aside for winter?

Then I think of a conversation decades ago, about the winter, and the absence of any clear recollection of that pretender of months, neither winter nor spring, just a misery of blue skies we know in the best of years will turn dour. It might have slipped forever from memory but for receiving a holiday card the next year from a friend of a friend who remembered that characterization, wishing me a good year and a “memorable March!”

Despite this oddly snowless winter, with only a few blasts of truly deep cold, the spring has been slow in arriving. Endless February days filled with chilly rain driven by the harsh east wind, and skies more gray than blue when the windy rain ceased, made the ground so wet I welcomed the drying wind. That weather finally broke in favor of bright sun and heavy but limited showers falling in the dark of night.

A year ago this week it snowed, not deep and drifting but more than enough to blanket the ground.The horses had not yet arrived but Autumn stood at the gate, the way this morning she lies in the yard, waiting, hopeful.

I look out and see beyond her daffodils not even the height they have been at the equinox other years. Beyond that, in the open field, are silver puddles, telling me there was more rain in the night than I realized, and making me wonder how I slept so soundly when other times I find so unsettling the rat-a-tat of water — sounding more like hail – on the windows.

The green is returning, and with it the stories it tells. The little lot to the east, behind the house that was a tangled of snow-frosted vines and brush a year ago, patiently waiting to be cut; soon thereafter it met its first mowing in some time. Clumps of green pushed upwards, rising though the fallen and chopped vegetation, those bunches of grass, lone stands that sometimes appear, they seemed at first although I held out a glimmer of hope they would prove to be more.

They looked, impossibly, to be daffodils, a mystery at first, aligned with not even my earliest memories when that lot yielded asparagus and perhaps a futile attempt at strawberries, and stands of rhubarb grew along the wall, two untended but defiant for years, fading only when they were finally noticed.

The new green spears were strewn about without any pattern, nor in a patch like the extra iris that bloomed in the field where they had been discarded. Finally, I realized they were appearing while others, which should have been exposed by the cutting, were sparse.

These “new” daffodils, as they later proved themselves to be, were not nomads having moved themselves to better locations, they had been the bulbs in the top layer of earth, the first removed and set aside several years ago when the trench to the new septic field was dug, earth spread about after the backfilling. They must have been blooming in secret, flowers were lost in the grass and weeds that grew tall and untended, but persisted in the way of these yellow flags of old farm yards.

It is the greening of the earth I am watching now, so much more pronounced than it was a week ago. Ribbons lace the front field, showing the track of the first paths cut, havens of sheltered green, lined with honeysuckle and milkweed in summer, before the whole part of the field was felled last winter and the old view to the south reopened.

There is new growth about for the looking, at the ends of the tree branches soft new growth has started. I see it in the yard and in the long light of early evening, part way down the road to the turn onto Mansion, a spot where in deepest, most barren winter, at the right place, I could make out a bit of each one of the five turbines that caress from afar the southeast “corner” of the island. Yesterday, there was just enough more growth in the scrub trees along the wall that I could not quite find the same view.

It was only a week ago that I was struck, this same time of day at the same spot, that the first of the green was showing on the hill behind my neighbor's barn, and only in the long shadows cast by trees I never notice another time of year.

That field has always seemed to lead the way into spring, improbably more than one immediately to the north, another piece of the same hill, divided by nothing but a stone wall following the curve of the land.

They were both pastures, populated by cows, not tilled in my memory. There was no reason for one to be green earlier; perhaps all this time it has been no more than that angle of the spring light and shadows.

The heat is on, the blessed sound of the furnace humming. I did it again, ran out of oil, lulled into paying no attention by the lack of cold, forgetting the sapping ability of the wind. It was only a few months ago I last did this I thought, as did the furnace guy who just chuckled when I identified myself and asked “you run out of oil, again?” Much to our amazement, it had been a bit over a year since I'd last done made the same call.

It seemed only a few months ago...