Friday, March 11, 2011

Spring Hopes Eternal

Spring Hopes Eternal

With the exception of one friend, an avid winter sportsman, every person I talk with is desperately seeking, searching, and praying for signs of spring. Such signs are sparse to non-existent. We’ll take any sign—and here’s my list.

1. Increasing hours of sunlight: Personally, I am an enthusiastic hibernator. This is an embarrassing confession. In winter darkness, I want to sleep. In the wee daylight of December, fortified with a good mystery book, I force myself to stay awake until 6:30 or 7:00. The sun and I both sleep in. By March I have added three and a half hours to my day.

2. The flipping of the calendar pages from winter, winter, winter to March, the place holder for spring: This year in northeastern Montana , this unruly month roared in like a lion on the prowl. One hopes we’ll see signs of the lamb but I’m not holding my breath.

3. Seed catalogs: I’m on every mailing list, but prefer to buy locally, mostly petunias and geraniums, which are content to grow without fuss. Yet I indulge myself, lingering over each page, in a greedy feast of floral abundance, air brushed to perfection, sure to die in zone three. .

4. Spring birds: Yesterday, gazing out my south window which frames my poplar trees, I saw a flicker flutter in, settle on a tree, and tap, tap, tap looking for bugs. I got hopeful. Oh, first glorious bird of spring. Then I remembered that I’d seen this same flicker on the coldest day of the year. Thirty seconds in my bird book verified that he is a year-round resident. False alarm. The only birds I have spotted are clothed in the grays and browns of winter. I thought I heard honking geese one day last week and threw my door open to the blowing snow only to discover a neighbor’s truck horn was stuck.

5. Reports from foreign climes: Friends gleefully torment me with their pictures of snowdrops and crocus (last month), budding lilacs and daffodils in bloom (right now), rising temperatures, gentle rainfall and greening of the grass. Bah, humbug.

6. The Montana Seed Show: The Seed Show is one sure sign of approaching spring. We who have hunkered in our houses all winter will gather, shake hands, slap backs, exchange hugs, tell lies, and eat pie. We will scan the exhibits, ogle the quilts and paintings, and generally enjoy one another.

7. Floods, a sign of spring we’d rather not see: Already ice jams against bridge abutments and water trickles beneath the snow-covered frozen soil. The latest update promises floods on the Milk River . Since the valley is wide and perfectly flat, this is not an encouraging report. In addition to the river, Harlem is keeping a close watch on Thirty Mile Creek to the north of the railroad tracks. I’m in the market for hip waders and a row boat, cheap.

8. Taxes: Did I mention taxes?

It’s snowing. County trucks loaded with gravel, blades to the ground, just rumbled down my street. Frozen fog glitters. My cats stand at the door and look longingly. When I slide the door the cats, despite fur-lined skin, test the air with their noses, turn back, run and hide.

9. A walker: Jack, his parka zipped with hood up, just walked by. The street in front of my house is a regular route for walkers. Jack is the first walker I have seen since November. Spring will surely following his footsteps.

Sondra Ashton

HDN: Looking out my back door

March 10, 2011

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