spring, sort of.

Technically, spring began Wednesday March 20 at 7:02 a.m. (not that I  was counting the minutes...)  But for me, spring doesn't really begin until I nail my routine.  Finalize a schedule.  Establish ground rules.  File every last shred of winter schrapnel. Until the mittens have been moth-balled.  The mountains of sweaters, scaled.  The boots, deep-sixed.  (Two years of salt stains and cock-eyed icy sidewalks and who-knows-what-wedged-underneath takes its toll on even the finest of Uggs.)

But more to the point, I need to pin down my days. 

The routine, it turns out, is a rigid one, an unbending adherence to rolling with itIt being the weather.  It being impromptu naps. It being the too-cold-to-clean-windows-days. It is the ultimate variable, come spring, as fickle and free-spirited as pronouns get. It is eating dinner illuminated, because it's Vernal Equinox season, and the light has gone all glow-y in the evenings again.  It is bulbs springing up, and hidden under snow for days.

Some days, it is a short walk to my much-loved little park. It is eating something fresher, nearly every day.  Sweet peas, fiddlehead ferns, radishes, rhubarb, strawberries. It is getting out into the garden, in boots and flannels, before eight, because the garden is something else in Spring. Lush, intense, brand new every day, a tiny jungle I can call my own. It is avoiding the garden, every day, like the plague, for exactly the same reasons.
The thing is, I enter every spring armed, with ideas and lists and notions, pre-conceived.  Since I schedule nothing save the occasional destination wedding, or a quick trip to the beach, it always seems wise to have a few Plans. Goals. Schemes. Distractions. Just, you know, to be prepared. This year, I'm planning a lush new garden. getting plenty of good sessions in before genuine summer kicks in.  And shelving the rest, without a second thought, because mastering deer taming is so the priority.  Besides, the very idea of it is enough to see me through the muddy season. I welcome a bit of weather whiplash, with nights back to chilly, and days bright but nippy. hello crocus, hello air that smells like childhood. hello spring. I am somewhere between wide open arms and wishing I could skip you altogether. am living squarely in the space between. but you're here, spring, and there's really nothing I can do about it. what I can do is pinch buds off the ends of hyacinth, and wear them like perfume. The pessimist might say it is all for naught. Me, I rather like having a plan B, on the off chance the sun comes out.

Anyhoo.  About that list.  It's really spring now, absolutely and for true, per the calendar and my bout of spring fever. I'm hitting my stride and finding my rhythm, doing what I do when the shiny comes to stay. What that is, exactly, changes by the day, and mostly my days sort themselves out just fine.  There are trips to the garden center and lots of window cleaning. seed catalog's to read. barefoot toes and cardigans. gardens to inspect.

I'm big for superstition, or magical thinking, or anything really on the far side of reason.  And, every now and again?  A little mental hat trick is just the thing. For example, I've decided Spring is just a slippery slope into summer. I've split my seasons between "is it cold enough for you?" and "is it hot enough for you?" in as many years, after all. Seasons are completing their first visit already, and  much-missed green is booking her next round-trip.  Okay, it's nature, maybe.  But I tell you, it's practically party-worthy! Because, and this may be the best hocus-pocus coup yet, I am watching our black-and-white world do a one-eighty.  In truth, this past week, another streak of cold arrived on the set.  I considered an epilogue, but decided against it, since the week's first five days were standard-fare frigid (not to mention the entire four months prior).  Mostly, though, I was scared I'd hex it, stop Spring in its tracks before it got started.  So mum is the word, and fingers are being crossed.  And I'm hoping my magical thinking will pay off?  and then some!  I'm wishing for straight days of beauty, of blue skies and bright light and warmth, real warmth.  I'm not talking about some adjusted-for-conditions facsimile, 27° or even textbook freezing.  I'm talking sixty-plus, no-jacket-required, fling-open-the-doors-and-windows warmth.  The world?  Color!  The snow?  Gone!!  And underneath it all, small signs of life everywhere, shoots, green tips, even the odd bud here and there.  suddenly tulips?  And hellebores. And holy cow, we have daffodils.   I am waiting patiently for a shirt-sleeves sun. 

I'm mindful, of course, that winter's still upon us.  The last freeze date here is May 15th, after all.  I've got a new sweater on the needles, a skeleton crew of mittens and boots on standby.  I'm still baking bread and slurping bowls of soup and I bought more oranges not three days ago.  Winter greens remain in heavy rotation, though the winter bit's really just more squishy logic. I'm a locavore in spirit, and often practice, but I realize there are great big gaps in my fervor.  Berries and stone fruits only happen in season.  Tomatoes and zucchini and endless other veggies, ditto.  But there's a special exemption for tropical crops, because bananas and oranges just never grow in Ohio.  And also, I'm noticing, a sleight of mind sort of thing, for foods which I think of as stalwart winter fare, but which in sad fact are long-distance imports.  Like It's summer somewhere!, so let us eat kale!

And so, dressers bulge with three seasons of clothing.  Shoes live in harmony, snow boots, rain boots, flip flops.  The coat closet teeters between clutter and chaos. Last year, 7° Monday morning, 70° Friday afternoon.  A spread of sixty-one degrees.  Five days.  Same week.  Last week of March. Mostly, March snow's a half-hearted thing. Last week's was damp, heavy, and next day?, halfway to gone.  It snowed all last week.  Accumulation, Zero.  It vanishes, on the way down. (magic). It's a different snow species going forward, flyaway stuff, with no plans to stick around.  The season itself seems spent.  But the finish line is a long ways off, yet.  

There's always something about the turning of the air, the changing of the light, that makes me want to get out and stir around, maybe do a little fluffing. You know I'm all over gardens and sunshine. you probably hear my happy dance from there.  But right now, such splendor's still the exception, not the rule, and I'm more than a little melancholy for it.  Winter has entered its epilogue, the thrill of those early chapters behind us.  Any snow that falls now inevitably brings thoughts not of firsts, but of lasts. And lasts can be a bit wistful. 


smoked salmon risotto with lemon and mascarpone
(go here for recipe)


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