Between the Seasons

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 7:30pm

We have crossed the many thresholds that mark the transition from winter to spring. We passed Washington's birthday; meteorological winter ended on March 1; our man-imposed measure of time shifted, a blip pushing the sunrise back before seven for a few days; and the closing hour of the grocery was set back an hour. St. Patrick's Day, which seems to have become the first true volley of spring — or last hurrah of winter — has come and gone and the span of weeks including one-boat days ended.

The first little flowers have bloomed, new grass is drawing the consistently annoying flock of Canada geese to the north pasture, and, at last, we had a spell of fine, dry weather. The morning sun is rising brightly out of the ocean to the east, leaving the south facing windows, through which it fell in December, layered with soft colors, supporting actors to the vivid drama of dawn on the Atlantic.

A few week ago I had to clean out under my kitchen sink after a pipe had let go and the plumber had promised to arrive soon — as he did — and found to my wonderment three bottles of Windex. With a sigh for the sales of cleaning products at the now gone-by Benny's, I lined them up on the floor, wondering how many years they would last me.

Then the almost-spring sun rises and I am finally reminded why there are so many; I had meant to leave one upstairs, when the east windows are low and without curtains and are quickly covered with smudges, nose prints of a curious dog always on the lookout for something, anything, at which she can bark, and in summer bound down the stairs and out the open back door to chase.

There are mallards swimming in the little “vernal” pond down by the gate, the one that has held water all of the winter, the only change the extent to which it reached into the field.

White clouds float across the blue skies over the dunes, still winter-pale and bordered by brown, leafless bayberry.

The days are longer, but it is the direction and angle of the light that most completely heralds the change of the season.

The fast-approaching equinox is almost anti-climatic, summoning a full moon for better impact.

The moon had been bright for several nights, turning the stones lining the lane behind my house pale. A year ago they were obscured by overgrowth that had gotten out of hand. Years, decades, ago I spent a fall clearing it of scrub brush, and trimming the grass, planting all manner of things I knew I would never use, but loved to have, parsley and Rosemary, then sage, and thyme because I am of that era. There was lavender from a nursery, mint from the edge of the pond, ferns from the swale, rhubarb from the past.

It was that way for years then fell into ruin and eventually came to represent so much more than mere overgrowth. Now, it is back, the ground clear, old walls open to the late winter moonlight, washing away everything that had combined to make me not want to even look that way unless there was a cover of snow or lilacs in bloom, some momentary distraction.

Then came this stealth last morning of winter and the earth was ethereal, seeming to hang between the seasons, the personification of a character, Princess Summer Fall Winter Spring, scarcely remembered but for the name, from a childhood show that seemed to come and go here, Howdy Doody, .

The fields, shorn over the winter, at mid-day showing green, marking where paths were cut last summer, but primarily having to them only the faintest wash of a possibility of color, the rolling lands that can be bright gold to dull tan to March sad, depending upon the fall of the light, were almost entirely white. The stubble of weeds and brush was covered with hoarfrost glimmering, touched by the same sun would soon climb higher and erase it. There was mist rising from the pond to the east, wraiths of the morning, casting the old peat bog into Arthurian legend, but most season-bridging was the wide expanse of ocean to the south, peacefully lying in the illusion of a bay created by the the curve of Crescent Beach.

Beyond the sparkling white fields the water was as flat as it is on the calmest of summer days, that plane of soft blue that looks more solid stained glass than liquid.

Even the horses, indirect saviors of my back lane — who are so far from the range of my early morning view they might as well be on the West Side — I soon learned had been dusted with white, as though caressed by some Icelandic version of a Nordic goddess passing as the sun breached the horizon.

They — and my Autumn with her golden retriever/Bernese mountain dog heritage — have also been harbingers of the equinox, with a serious upswing in the dropping of their pale undercoats, brushes beginning to fill more rapidly.

The color of the ocean deepened as the sun rose higher, the frost melting into the air until a bit over an hour after the dawn all that remained was at the east end of the front field, where my neighbor's hill still cast a trough of a shadow.

The wind has picked up and is coming from the south, by afternoon the bay of blue beyond the fields is so bright the beach on the far side, close to town, stands out, almost white in contrast. The remnants of chopped woody scrub lie on the hillside, fresh enough that they still sparkle in the sun, tan trying to remake itself into gold lamé.

It sounds, with that new wind, like late winter but looks sunny and bright and hopeful turning to spring.