Spring Blues
by: Mike Lushington  

            Easter has come and gone. The clocks have moved to Daylight Saving Time. The calendar tells us that spring is almost one month old by now. So why does it still seem so bleak?

            Have you ever noticed that there is a time in late March, almost every year, when the sun shines, the temperatures soar, and the ice and snow begin to melt almost as though they meant it? "We're going to have an early spring this year, for sure." The euphoria extends to everyone. There is a rush to tap maple trees, to get the first big sap run of the spring. People are outside, some for the first time in months, puttering around, raking bits of lawn as soon as they become exposed. Some even shovel or snowblow their lawns in an effort to hurry things along. Evenings are spent with seed catalogues, or with pots of planting soil and the seeds themselves: tomatoes, peppers, celery, all kinds of flowers - all get an early start in anticipation of the time when they will be set out in the garden to flourish under a benign summer sun.

            And then April sulks along. The clouds roll back in, this time for days, even weeks at a time. It rains a little, it snows a little, it drizzles a lot. The east wind pouts, occasionally retreating to its corner to allow for a whisper from the south, before stomping back out to resume its temper tantrums for a while longer. These are the days when the temperature sticks around zero; it might make it up a couple of degrees during the day, and it might drop a couple of degrees below at night, but basically it sits there, in cahoots with that cranky wind. The people who watch the skies tell us of meteor showers, of particularly impressive alignments of the planets in the night skies. It is an academic exercise, I am certain, because every time I look up, all I see is an opaque, grey blanket that seems to cover everything.

            Oh, yes, the birds are returning. The grackles have been doing their impressions of rusty gate hinges for a couple of weeks now, and, on occasion, one can hear the Song sparrow from the dogwoods behind the old shed. I saw a flock of robins the other day - a full two weeks earlier than usual, but looking just as lost and depressed as they usually do when they arrive. Undoubtedly they are remembering the weather they left behind and, in all likelihood, questioning their collective sanity for making this trip back into the dregs of winter.

            I know that this will pass, that one day the sun will shine again as though it really means it. It might even be that our driveway will dry up enough so that I can contemplate getting someone to push most of it back up the hill where it belongs, rather than spreading all over the road. I might be able to walk across the backyard without slithering. My boots might even dry out, sometime.

            In the meantime, I put my skis away, eye those seed pots for the first signs of sprouts, check my fires to keep the maple sap boiling, and look to the west, searching for that first break in the clouds, the first hint of a sunset now that the sun has come back to our side of the hill, the first whisper of a westerly breeze that suggests that better days are ahead. I know they are - it's just that when April puts on one of her moods, faith in the promise of summer can be sorely tested.


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