You can feel it, on that day the sun makes its celestial journey from the south to north, and grants both earthly hemispheres an equal share of light. As you step from your winter house that morning, the anticipatory pause that held you since the early days of March is lifted.
At first, it hovers in the gray and thinning veil of vapor rising off the melting snow. And then it dissipates, releasing all that was in preparation underneath—multitudinous intricacies of nature teeming throughout the winter, unseen beneath the frozen ground above. These stir now suddenly, beneath your feet. A palpable shift into spring.
In the kitchen this morning, an ant made its way down the window frame onto the counter as I poured my tea. His busy legs moved over the slivers of sunlight pushing through the curtain at the window. Smiling, I set the honey jar into a moat of water poured into a pottery bowl. That industrious little indicator of spring just made me change my course of action for the day.
Muck-boots on and well-worn, woolen work jacket buttoned, I make my way from the house down the slope to the burn pile, slipping on ice at one step, and skidding through mud at the next. A sure, though not elegant slide, from temporary to certain. The clarity in today’s mud can’t be argued! The protective winter shell slides off my body like melting snow off the roof. I leave it lying where it falls.
In the ground beneath it, seeds are bursting out against their hulls. I wonder, if my mind were still enough—could I hear them with my ear against the naked ground? Working their way upward, pushing with all their might through the ground until breaking through its crust? Oh, the definitively tender vibrancy of spring!
With several good breaths and balled up sections of January newspapers, flames are teased into collected twigs. They catch, and then some larger sticks go in, to make the fire more courageous. Before long, the thicker branches fallen during winter’s storms are burning with a passion that needs no further encouragement.
I sit in the glow of a growing circumference of heat thrown off by the heart of the fire. The ground is softening here. Papery slips of maple and spruce shiver up with the smoke like so many swiftly retreating ghosts. I stay for a moment surveying the winter fallout strewn across the yard. They will take some time to collect. The fire will not go hungry for the better part of the day.
Toward the edge of the garden, a robin redbreast tries his luck at a patch of just bared soil. He hops off toward another piece of snowless ground as I make my way over to open the gate. It is an old wooden pallet that was hinged to the fence post many years ago when the first woodchuck was spotted clearly entertaining thoughts that would not do the lettuces any good! The gate has managed to firmly keep him, and his rapidly multiplying family, at bay until now. It sinks awkwardly into my hands, pulling off in rotted pieces, from the top hinge. One more nudge and it has succinctly and indefinitely relieved itself of its duties.
My brother-in-law once cautioned, as he loaned me a tool: “Beware the permanence of temporary.” The pallet will need to be replaced, like quite a few other things about this place that were done to serve in a pinch, but have managed to stay on much longer than intended. The list is growing. Maybe someday, there will be means to purchase proper lumber, but for now their “temporary permanence” is a certainty. And how much would I have learned, if nothing ever fell apart?
In the garden, I push aside the compressed and sodden leafy mulch of one raised bed. The soil beneath yields just enough to push down a row or two of peas! Another assurance of the true arrival of spring. I can almost taste the sugar snaps already, and feel their crunch and sweetness on my tongue.
We’ve only just completed stacking the final delivery of wood, which will, no doubt, be needed into April. It’s odd how that last cord in March seems so much bigger than the first one, which was delivered in October! But I do feel lighter knowing that that task is over for the next several months. The urgency of spring in its upward rush is so different from the inward spiral of late fall. The inevitable heap of spring projects that I welcome with vigor at the onset will build up over the next few weeks, and some will be easier to address than others.
Only today, I don’t want to overthink anything. It’s enough just to realize that all the seemingly temporary things I do, leave a mark on a much larger permanence that extends far beyond a broken gate.
The garden will be planted and the pallet replaced, most likely, with another object that once served another purpose. The sky is a warmer blue, and Persephone is making her way out of the underworld.
It is spring. This we know. It’s a good day for equilibrium, here at the edge of the fire, watching winter retreat.
Cardinale Montano is a freelance writer living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She shares her creativity with good friends, family, and eager learners, and celebrates daily the blessings of nature in the beautiful Berkshires. She is the founder and designer at LineflaxAndRoving.com