10 Signs That Winter Is Over

Heady Hellebore
  1. You remember that your street has curbs.
  2. Ice melt is back in stock, as well as toilet paper, milk and bread.
  3. You regret that you put away the lawnmower without winterizing it.
  4. The power outage app is not perpetually open on your phone anymore.
  5. You start stripping off layers like a nightclub act.
  6. Seed catalogs are no longer a cruel joke.
  7. You can’t sleep in the morning with all the bird procreation outside.
  8. Everyone stops driving in the middle of the road.
  9. Your short male dog no longer has to be dragged outside to pee.
  10. You finally find your snow shovel.

Ending Winter

Now That's a Proper Primrose

By weather’s cruel blow we’re watching for tornadoes in the snow, while a brief warm-up causes our roofs to weep in gratitude. The gutters are full and drains can’t take much more, even as our sump pump works overtime. But next week unrelenting cold is stepping back into the ring because Winter won’t give up without a fight.

I am so sick of the artful, monochromatic snow bouts. They are beautiful, but frigid. Instead, I place my bets on the new talent in the floral department, nose following that vernal potential like a bloodhound. So far, I’ve tracked down a primrose, but there may be more to bloom if bad weather keeps it up.

You see, I cheer on the flowered reflections inside my window, not quite here yet, but promised when Spring finally puts a stop to this match once and for all.

May Day

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Yeah, it’s seventy degrees and
snowing in my part of the yard

so don’t look now there’s
a worm that didn’t quite make

it back to the loam, but flowing
fringes of procreation still

shed off as light as ribbons
twining lilac haze with a dance

toward sweet interludes inside
dawn’s cabana drenched

in wet morning song full
of pollen and propagation

and progeny and purity and
proliferation and seed.

Squirrel?

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Subterranean invasions by bushy-tailed beasties have been curiously absent these days. Longtime readers might recall a series of unfortunate events in this. And then there was the further embarrassment of this. I could be asking for trouble by daring to suggest a truce — they’re probably setting up lawn chairs in the crawlspace even as I chatter on.

The previous winter was a heat wave — no need to chew through concrete for a cozy berth in the mothership. This year began pretty mild, nothing to invade a home about. The fierce gales of March may be unusual, but beams of lengthening daylight must be enough to satisfy them in their leafy dens.

Meanwhile, I shiver in my dry winter skin, gazing out this bundled house at an invisible hand rippling the fine tail of one on the post, wishing I had that coat.

Battered But Not Broken

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April may be cruel, but March is madness. The crazy winds bend us down for closer looks, a pelting artillery full of sleet and shredded petals. At ground level, hopeful spears pierce through the hapless ruins of last year’s mulch, only to be hammered into senseless concussions by desperate underground minions, searching for spring.

It’s got to be here somewhere, they mutter, as they blindly knock down tender shoots of what they seek like bowling pins.

Meanwhile, long-legged stalkers nibble through the fresh green fuzz barely born from dark sheaths, stunting the starts before there is a chance to bloom and prosper. Like most of life, this hardly seems fair.

Left to struggle with blunted tips, what will we make of ourselves? Potential lies coiled inside earth’s naval, untrampled, still ready to burst forth into flower.

It’s the pruner’s pinch that makes us stronger.

What the Groundhog Didn’t Tell You

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The cat didn’t see his reflection, either.

Okay, so Punxsutawney Phil and most of his rodent brethren predicted an early spring this year. His poor track record aside, you can’t deny the lengthening of days and the smell of thaw in the air. From precious offerings for protection of livestock (not necessarily groundhogs) to feasts celebrating a good lambing, this halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox has been as big a deal to the ancients as our Super Bowl rituals are to the sports obsessed (fair-weather halftime and commercial fans excluded).

I think modern folks can all agree, if they happen to look up from their mobile devices, that something is going on this time of year. There is the promise of love and/or bling on February 14th as well as the hope for a future tax refund. The weather maps show a good chance of enough rain to wash the road salt off the car. And I can always count on noticing the geese and robins, even though they’ve been around all winter or at least most of it. I want my indicators of spring to show up on my timeline.

At my house, our ancient corgi has rejuvenated herself enough to run pre-dinner laps again (no matter how wobbly or brief), while the cat who won’t step foot on anything white or wet has taken to poking his nose out the backdoor for a whiff of catnip to come. Late at night we hear him yelling disconsolately at a toy mouse that refuses to resurrect itself. Now there’s the spring-fever spirit.

This year, I have begun too many projects, always a good sign. Most of these could be fun, even. My own offerings of knitting, writing, sewing, pastel and music are lying about the house in various stages of address. I’ve signed up for a painting class, and made plans for a healthier diet and a big spring cleaning that will probably happen late summer.

There is no sure way to predict how this will all turn out, of course. The joy is in the process, the rush of potential and the good kind of exhaustion after a long day of using your imagination. The kind of tired you felt falling into bed as a kid. I have missed that.

As for assessing the whims of the gods, weather or otherwise, I have only this to say. The meteorologists are forecasting a big old nor’easter sweeping up the east coast later this week. And calling for the groundhog’s head.

Way to go, Phil.

Toad on the Patio

Toad shows up every year. We think it’s the same one. Sometimes Toad is little, sometimes big. This spring, Toad is on the large size. I take this as a sign that the living will be easy come summer.

At least once a season, Toad shows up in our downstairs hallway with a confused look on its face, caught in that strange dry world between tile and laminate, threads of dust clinging to it like seaweed on a castaway.

The dim humans have no idea how this happens. The dog and cat keep a wide berth, since they don’t enjoy frothing at the mouth from toad magic.

Upon discovery, Toad is scooped up in a tea towel and tenderly deposited into the spearmint forest at the back door (we strongly suspect that’s its hangout during the day.)

Come nightfall, Toad chills by the patio door, waiting for bumbling bugs drawn to the kitchen light. Toad is no dummy.

We watch for it every night, that placid shape with the countenance of Buddha, a part of this world but beyond it. We anticipate its evening appearance like a late-night talk show celebrity, letting the name roll off our tongues in the deep tones of a town crier: All is well.

We like to say the word Toad.

We like Toad. Warts and all.

The Egg of It All

It is a well-known fact that my husband loves eggs. He consumes them in all their forms: fried, scrambled, poached and boiled. He likes them runny, with cheese and a bit of onion, on top in huevos or underneath hollandaise sauce. He even favors egg-shaped objects — his first car was a VW Bug (as close to an ovaloid as you could get outside of Ork in those days).

Unbelievably, we once considered buying an egg-laying operation in a futile attempt to make a living in an unaffordable part of the country. I remember a tour of the owner’s farmhouse revealed the largest egg-clectic collection of chicken and egg nicknacks known to man. Even the clocks on the wall bore the shapes of poultry.

It was truly egg-centric. (sorry)

So, stands to reason that any holiday even remotely celebrating the spherical will have his full participation. As empty-nesters, the whole point and motivation to pastel candy, gaudy long-handled baskets and egg dying would be done and gone if it weren’t for my spouse’s ellipsoidal zeal.

Pretty soon, those addictive miniature eggs with the crunchy malt centers suddenly appear in the candy dish despite my best attempts to avoid and prevent this sort of behavior. Then chocolate-covered coconut ovules spill out from behind the cereal boxes in the cupboard. Inevitably, I find telltale strands of fake grass clinging to his clothes.

Although this year, I honestly thought we were going to amble through the holiday weekend without the whole hard-boiled routine, tempting sales on 12-packs notwithstanding.

By Maundy Thursday, however, he had that look in his eye, the dear man. He wanted me to pick up extra on grocery day. Okay, boil some up, I offered, thinking no big deal, we’ll have deviled eggs all next week.

But no. He wanted them à la shell. In color.

Too late, I mused. There’s no way unless we masticate some roots or fight a squirrel for the black walnut shells. Do they even sell those egg-dying kits of our youth in the stores anymore? You know, the ones with the transfers that never worked and the punch-out paper figures my brother and I used to come to blows over?

Not to be dissuaded, my husband fishes out an ancient box of food coloring, the kind with those little suspiciously-familiar-shaped bottles wearing pointy hats.

A half cup of hot water and a whiff of vinegar later, I am 10 again.

Re-hatched.

Crawl of Shame

I open the front door on a modest suburban morning and there you are, crossing the threshold between lush vernal bacchanalia and the searing glare of daily grit.

It’s the same old story: last night you slid into your usual watering hole, met some buddies, the drinks got out of hand, the embraces too familiar.

Next thing you know, you wake up in a puddle, underwear on backwards. You’ve lost your shoes. Reawakened memories of your misdeeds inch along in segments.

There’s a new tattoo.

Far from the home field, you slink back for all to see, woozy head kept low.

Praying you don’t run foul the birds of retribution.

There She Goes

Wasn't first to arrive at the party this year.

She sprinted by in an instant. If you weren’t paying attention, you missed her. If you were, say, too busy sneezing or fending off the latest fashionable super bug, you failed to feel the gentle breezes. While you were standing in lines for those spanking new iPads or latest dystopian flick, you couldn’t see the deflated magnolia petals falling like bitter disappointment on the lawns. If you worked without respite in the futile race against obsolescence, as I have done these last two weeks, you were unaware of the fleeting grand finale of rebirth that burst over the land, leaving only traces of spent flower casings and the whiff of pollen sulfur, like early morning after the Fourth.

Summer, with all his brazenly tanned groupies and larger-than-life boombox, waits impatiently at the door.