FORT KENT, Maine — Ah, spring; ever the muse for scribes who wish to wax poetic about the seasons’ renewal, love, passion and new birth.
Consider the words by 18th Century Poet Thomas Gray:
“The Attic warbler pours her throat,
Responsive to the cuckoo’s note,
The untaught harmony of spring:
While whisp’ring pleasure as they fly,
Cool zephyrs thro’ the clear blue sky
Their gather’d fragrance fling.”
I’d be quite willing to bet if Gray had never been to northern Maine in April, his “Ode on the Spring” would have instead been an ode to mud and ice.
Now, I love northern Maine. Perhaps the only thing I love more is my little piece of it that is Rusty Metal Farm.
But even I am having a tough time right now waxing poetic as I look at friends’ colorful social media posts of blooming flowers, green grass and freshly tilled garden plots.
Were I to post photos of the current conditions surrounding my house they would be monochromatic images of mud, giant snow banks and trees with nary a leaf bud in sight. Yes, I know I live in the north. And, yes, I am perfectly aware that up here winter comes early and stays longer than a houseguest lacking the good sense not to overstay a welcome.
And certainly, when spring does actually appear, it is all the more appreciated.
I just need to remind myself of that as I wipe up the mud tracked into the house by the Rusty Metal cats and Chiclet for what seems the 100th time that day.
Because, as we all know, even the slowest of melting snow turns ground into mud. And we’ve had a banner year for snow up here. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, we have shattered all previous years’ records for number of days with more than a foot of snow on the ground.
I do try to make the best of it.
I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a rousing round of, “Look what the melting snow has uncovered today.” Every afternoon, while walking Chiclet, I cast my eyes about and more often than not, can say, “Oh, so that’s what happened to …” insert lost, forgotten, missing item’s name here.
The other day was a two-fer when I found a pile of bungee cords that had somehow been left on the ground at some point last fall, and the cover to my barbeque grill which had blown off in a winter wind storm.
Chiclet, for her part, is loving this season as it is warm enough for her to enjoy being outside and the snowpack that does not support my weight, has no problem holding up a 5-pound dog.
I know this because the other day she tore off after a squirrel and, deaf to my calls, forced me to plunge into what was, at times, waist deep snow to retrieve her.
Speaking of sinking in the remaining snow, let’s talk about the Rusty Metal Kennel.
All winter I followed hard packed trails from dog house to dog house as I fed, tended and interacted with the seven dogs out there.
But we have now entered the dreaded “post hole” season — and every musher out there knows exactly what I am talking about.
It’s the time of year when, no matter how carefully you step or try to stay on the trail, it’s softened up enough that at some point your entire leg is going to sink down – forming a deep “post hole.”
This is especially fun when holding a heavy bucket of dog food and water.
It’s even more fun when one leg stays on top of the snow, the other is several feet below the surface and you plunge face first into something about which you honestly do not want to speculate.
I do find solace in that despite of all the dog yard falls and post holes this year, I have spilled nary a kibble. And I’m sure the bruises and scrapes on my shins will fade — eventually.
But, throughout it all I do remind myself there are good reasons to be optimistic.
The days are getting warmer. One day it was warm enough that I was able to sit out on the deck in the late afternoon and enjoy a cold beverage.
It’s also been warm enough to let out during the day the Rusty Metal Chickens, who are delighted to be out scratching in the gravel after a winter of being cooped up in the coop.
I know bicycling season is coming, there will be cook outs, hikes with friends and endless walkies with the dogs of Rusty Metal Farm.
At that point, I too will be responsive to the cuckoo’s note and see those pleasures as they fly into cool zephyrs through the clear blue sky.