Spring came. Didn’t you notice? I failed to note its majestic arrival because I was busy scouring the online calendar for weather-related school cancellations. Fortunately, school was on, so I was able to drop the children and begin searching for earnest signs of spring. They can be easy to miss in Maine because spring arrives differently here. It doesn’t break open like a Faberge egg, revealing its jewels and colors to spangle the sun-drenched land. Winter is slow to release its grasp, removing only one icy finger at a time from our brittle necks. Just when you think it might be time to retire your lumpy and layered garb, winter will grab you by the collar and cackle, “You need to go to the gym for a few more weeks before those come off.”
A walkabout of my yard proved fruitless as the snow still lay claim to it, but I could see that the stream was rushing more than usual, indicating that somewhere, some place, a thaw was underway. As I was trudging back over the swaths of ice, I saw something glint from beneath a mound of snow that had stood proud since the new year. It was a handlebar.
“So we didn’t lose the bikes,” I thought. “I’ve just been parking my car on top of them for the last three months.”
I turned my head toward the village. Symptoms of winter glared all around. Icicles, not even sweating ones, clinging to roofs. Wreaths filling commercial window spaces. People falling on sidewalks, and not because they were leaping over flowers to greet a loved one. My gaze fell to the ground where I hoped to spy a bud, a promising sign of life renewed, issuing out of the hard soil. I did see a lot of cigarette butts, which was almost as good as buds, since there wasn’t a foot of snow masking them anyway.
I dug my hands deeper into my pockets and gathered my coat more tightly around me as a man in a long sleeve shirt and jeans stepped out of his car. He took one look at me and teased in an accent only the most indigenous of folks can, “This is balmy, dear!”
Spring is different here in Maine. It’s nothing to write home about. Especially since the mailbox is still frozen closed. March comes in like a lion and goes out like an even hungrier lion. April is equally likely to give us Easter or a Nor’easter. May can bring even parts madness and muddiness.
We all know, though, no matter how many winters we’ve seen hold on too long, that the good stuff is coming.
In case you’re unconvinced that spring has gotten a foothold in our lives, here are more surefire signs of spring in Maine:
The oil delivery man tells you he’ll probably only see you a dozen more times before summer.
Discounts on bags of salt. And not for happy hour.
You abandon sweaters in favor of wearing 14 layers.
You realize you never really disposed of your Christmas tree.
You stand forlornly over snow boots and rain boots having no idea which one to wear.
The weatherman shrugs at the camera and says, “Eh …”
You begin wrapping your leftovers in the plastic from your windows.
You start to phase out the 3 p.m. dinner.
You begin to think there might be foods other than chili.
Your relatives who will only consider visiting Maine in the summer start to inquire if you feel like August is going to be a safe bet.