It was noisy again out here in the countryside this morning. I say “again” because for the first time in months — though there still remains a strip of grainy snow along the base of the pole barn — temperatures have lifted to the point where we can raise our windows along with the mercury. After a hermetically sealed winter for the ages, in pours noise: the rat-a-tat of a woodpecker, a tractor churning through mud, chainsaws snarling across the valley, a proliferation of songbird whistle and chatter, poorly-mufflered pickup trucks running the county road down by the Zich place, boastful backyard roosters, the rattle of last year’s oak leaves dropping through the branches after being displaced by this year’s buds and then a breeze, and deep in the birches an unidentified bird whose one-note call I would describe as peevish (my ornithology is not up to snuff).
As tight as those windows were sealed all winter, as circumscribed as our wanderings were by snow banks, this spring has a special freshness despite it coming on slowly. The leaves aren’t exactly busting out, but here and there they’ve extended an emerald fingernail, and we’ll take it.
It is refreshing to be refreshed by the rediscovery of green, even in this my sixth decade of seasons. Between work and a family trip I spent a few weeks in the Arizona desert this winter, and yet I still managed to move more snow than I’d ever moved in my life. And that doesn’t count all the snow my wife moved while I was gone and the plow truck broke. Twice.
I was happy as a kid on the last day of school when I finally detached that plow from the truck last week. I felt light on my toes and so did the truck. If I never again have to don crampons to get the mail, or buy rock salt at a gas station, or scrape my windshield with a debit card, I doubt I’ll miss it. I am prepared to suffer some snow-free Christmases within sight of sparkling saltwater. This winter triggered undeniable snowbird urges.
But: I am not yet not cured of the joy we feel as the land comes back to life. It’s a classic Midwestern post-Calvinist guilt sorta thing, that in order to appreciate good times, we must first suffer hardship. That we must earn our sunburn, that we must wade through drifts before we wade through the surf, that we must slip on the ice before we drop it in lemonade.
This winter it took a front end loader and a whole lotta shoveling to keep a path clear to the chicken coop. Don’t think I didn’t appreciate it this morning when I walked out to do the chores and there was nothing but grass beneath my feet and sun upon my head. The forecast is for cloudy and cool. Spring’s gonna duck behind the shed again for a few days. The asparagus will hesitate. But in the Norway pines behind the garage a robin was dive-bombing a red squirrel over nesting rights, adding to the noise declaring winter done.