Spring, 5:58 p.m., Wednesday

My 13-year-old’s bouncing like her once-beloved Tigger. After school, she’s ecstatic, with no particular reason. All through the afternoon, through cooking dinner together, hopping on one foot from the kitchen to the dining room, setting the table….

What’s up? I think. And then I know. I force myself to drop the adult crabbiness, forswear off my intention to adhere to my list.

It’s spring fever, and there is no cure. There’s only revelry.

11 years ago, give or take a few weeks, I dragged myself in from a long sugarhouse day, got my two and eight year old daughters to sleep, picked up The New Yorker, and read this poem by Louise Gluck.

Still one of my favorite poems, these lines remind me of how this harsh season reflects not only Vermont but the long seasons of a human life. Spring is hard-earned here. We savor it more for that.

It’s a little early for all this.
Everything’s still very bare—
nevertheless, something’s different today from yesterday.

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Wander with Laughing Teens

The girls put effort into dressing for a walk through the sugar woods — hair up and all in black, save for a borrowed pair of colorful leggings. In capitulation to winter (which remains), I exchange my holey and holy jeans for a better pair and pull on a raggedy sweater.

We’ve stretched into Sunday and into winter school break, with waffles in the shape of maple leaves and needlepoint projects the girls have pulled out of drawers. I’ve finished my taxes and offered what was apparently an incredibly dull overview of federal monies — who profits, who doesn’t. It’s no loss — the girls shake off the warmth of our kitchen and greet the wet woods and sprinkling rain with joy.

The woods are misty and ghostly, crisscrossed with animal tracks. The maples bend overhead, whispering their secret language. The 13-year-olds jump on each other’s backs like puppies, giggling, and empty snow from their boots.

After reading Donald Antrim’s harrowing essay in the recent New Yorker, I picked his memoir, too.

People are fond of saying that the truth will make you free. But what happens if the truth is not one simple, brutal thing?

— Donald Antrim, The Afterlife: a memoir

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Hardwick Town Forest, tapped in for sugaring

 

Marvelous March Madness

Spring may be fêted with pastel bunnies and pale eggs in the Hallmark and Nestle worlds, but Vermont’s spring must be brutally strong to break winter’s back.

Thaw, and the ice pounds back. Melt, and freeze steals into the night.

The hardest I’ve ever worked in my life is sugaring season. When my younger daughter was two, I remember lying with her under the skylight over our bed, completely spent, reading Louse Gluck’s poem in The New Yorker. I had little time for reading in that season, and this poem always reminds me of this season’s pithiness, the stubborn desire to press on through mud and ice, toward the blossom season.

The sea doesn’t change as the earth changes; it doesn’t lie. You ask the sea, what can you promise me and it speaks the truth; it says erasure

Nothing can be forced to live.The earth is like a drug now, like a voice from far away, a lover or master. In the end, you do what the voice tells you. It says forget, you forget. It says begin again, you begin again.

From March by Louise Gluck

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Spring Fever

Since the time change, my ten-year-old daughter cannot sleep. At 10:30 last night, she peered from her bunk bed, cheshire cat-like in the dim room, insisting she couldn’t sleep because she was excited. But I don’t know what I’m excited about!

I reached up and held her slim, warm fingers. It’s spring fever, I told her.

But I don’t have a fever….

All day long, as much as possible, she’s outside, poking a stick in running streams, painting her fort beneath the pine trees, biking up and down with road with her friend. The two of them run into the kitchen, breathlessly excited about spying on her father and his friend in the sugarhouse. Their stories spill out about biking through icy puddles and finding turkey tracks along the road. Beneath our boots, more of the earth reappears in its muddy glory every day, shaking off winter. Spring!

….And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
– Robert Louis Stevenson, “Bed in Summer”
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Molly S. Photo/Woodbury, Vermont

The Sweet Spring Season

Signs of spring:

The school busses won’t travel on the backroads due to impassably muddy stretches. The superintendent sends an email: Drop off your kids to meet a bus at the corner barn…

An enormous flock of singing blackbirds in a single maple tree beside the post office.

Steam from the sugarhouse sweetening cold fog; April’s come early, this year.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain…
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night…

– T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

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Hardwick, Vermont/Photo by Molly S.

The Vermont Season of Pre-Spring

A number of years ago, I conceived an idea that our family’s financial salvation lay in wedding favors. With our maple syrup, colored card stock, a paper cutter, and raffia, I filled tiny bottles with syrup and bow-tied on little cards printed with hopeful things like Julie and Josh, July 8, 2001, Eat, Drink & Be Merry. Or: A sweet beginning. In the long run, my fortune didn’t lie there, but I met interesting people at profoundly pivotal junctures in their lives.

One April, in an intense mud season, a couple unexpectedly drove out to our house. We were deep in the midst of sugaring with a three-year-old. On our back road and driveway – and all around the house where the snowbanks were fiercely melting – lay mud that sucked at our knee-high boots with an audible glop. The winter had been its usual terror, and immense snowbanks mounded all around the house, interspersed by our trodden paths. My gorgeous little girl, with unbrushed hair, walked around shirtless in overalls and mud boots, a yellow plastic sand toy shovel in one hand.

The couple had heard about our wedding favors and had arrived to order in person. He and my husband talked about Ford pickups while I chatted with the woman. She kept looking around, distressed. It’s just so muddy, she kept saying. How do you stand it? Where she cringed from dirt and inconvenience,  I saw sunlight so intensely bright it lay like shining gold coins on the shallow dips of water that spread out all around our house, as though we were a ship on a rippling sea. I knew mud as the world’s thrust from winter to spring, the give from one season to another. My heart lightened with joy at the end of a bitter cold season and the imminence of wildflower season. I knew coltsfoot would shortly bloom.

…Soon it will be the sky of early spring, stretching above the stubborn ferns and
violets.
Nothing can be forced to live.
The earth is like a drug now, like a voice from far away,
a lover or master. In the end, you do what the voice tells you.
It says forget, you forget.
It says begin again, you begin again.

– Louise Gluck, from “March”

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