Today I sat at the round kitchen table by the glass door, looking up from my computer screen to watch a cardinal perch on bare forsythia branches, a welcome spot of red against the otherwise dreary landscape. The snow still stretched out to the woods which are still brown and bare against the gray sky. The phone rang, and I stood to answer. It was my daughter calling with her plans to come home for spring break.
â€œOmigosh,â€ I said, interrupting her before she barely got in a â€œhello.â€ â€œThereâ€™s a donkey in the yard!â€ Half hidden by a patch of shrubs, I could see a large brown creature nibbling on a circle of grass that had appeared in the snow.
Even as I said this, I doubted myself. None of our neighbors in this rural area of farms and houses and woods have donkeys. Cows. Big hairy ones that sometimes wander down the road. And dogs who come to visit the compost pile. But a donkey?
â€œDonkey?â€ my daughter said. â€œDid you say â€˜dun-key?â€™â€
â€œOh, no, no,â€ I said. â€œItâ€™s a deer. And thereâ€™s another one. And another!â€
â€œBut you said â€˜dun-â€˜keyâ€™ said my daughter.
â€œI made a mistake,â€ I said.
â€œBut itâ€™s not â€˜dun-keyâ€™â€, she said, â€œitâ€™s â€˜dahn-key.â€™â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€ I said. â€œItâ€™s not â€˜dahn-key, â€˜ itâ€™s â€˜dun-key.â€™ How do you call that animal that eats bananas? You donâ€™t say â€˜mahn-keyâ€™ do you?â€
My daughter was not swayed. â€œItâ€™s â€˜dahn-key,â€™â€ she said.
â€œAnyway,â€ I said, â€œitâ€™s a dear.â€
I am trying to find some glory in this endlessly gray and windy March weather. Growing up in Pennsylvania, March bore the fragrance of spring in its wind, but here in New England March still wears its winter hat and scarf even when the sun and a patch of blue sky seductively beckon.
â€œIâ€™ve lived in New England too long,â€ said Fred, an old New Englander almost 35 year ago when I first moved to western Mass, â€œto be fooled by March.â€
I have become disconnected from the gloriousness of life these tail-end-of-winter days. Walking down our dirt road entails trying to maneuver around sucking pools of mud. Driving it is like running a boat across the wakes of others, an up and down bounding over the rutted roadway that surely is not good for car, road or driver.
On Saturday it snowed, rained, hailed, snowed with a spurt of blue sky in between in the afternoon. I took my sonâ€™s dog for a walk during the hailing part and noticed the little white balls on my jacket, in the dogâ€™s fur and on the mud-frozen road. Truly, it was a wondrous weather day, all these mixes and permutations of wetness, and, from what I heard when I described it to friends, it was happening only here in this lump of frozen land here where I live. But I was in no mood to marvel. I walked the dog up to the mailbox and back, barely looking anywhere but down. Down down. Not up at the sky with its clouds that were delivering this multitude of moisture upon us.
My children are both home from college for spring break. Youâ€™d think I would find that glorious but all I can think is how great it would be if we were off somewhere warm, having an actual vacation instead of being here in March with the kitties refusing to go out and tearing around the house, leaving balls of fur in every corner of every room and poop poop pooping in the litter box instead of outside like they do when the weather is nice.
Is this what they mean by March madness? Surely there is something glorious in all this. Surely I have learned by now that if I canâ€™t change the circumstances I can at least change my attitude.
Here is a list of glorious March things:
1. The red flowers on the cyclamen plant that fall over all dried out from my forgetting to water them and then raise their heads in forgiveness when I finally remember.
2. My college age son reaching up to hug me as I help him transfer from his wheelchair to the couch.
3. My daughter walking in the door from college and immediately changing into my comfy fleece pants and her dadâ€™s old flannel shirt.
4. Stanley, my sonâ€™s yellow Lab service dog with his adorable pink-nosed, brown-eyed puppy face.
5. Sharky the big male cat, sprawled out on the sofa, his long-haired belly up to the ceiling, paws outstretched, reaching up to pat my face when I sit next to him.
6. Meyer lemons.
I first learned about Meyer lemons, a sweet lemon-orange cross, from my friend Francey who grew up in southern Florida in a rambling house with orange and lemon trees in the backyard.
You never used to be able to see Meyer lemons in stores here in New England, or maybe they were here and I just wasnâ€™t looking. Francey buys them and puts them in a cobalt blue pottery bowl that I made and gave to her years ago.
This weekend I bought some Meyer lemons at Fosterâ€™s supermarket and filled a white bowl that Katie made and placed the bowl on the kitchen table next to a bunch of daffodils that had found their way into my shopping cart.
â€œThis is our Easter basket,â€ I said to my kids. No dying eggs, no jelly beans this year.â€ Just Meyer lemons with their perfect egg shape and their deep yellow skin with the tiniest blush of green that grabs you by the eyeballs and says yellow! Sun! spring!
Now, that is glorious.
Soon the forsythia will burst open, the green haze of trees budding will color the hills, the new wet grass will melt and the daffodils will shout out their yellow names. Soon the pansies will show their smiley faces in front of supermarkets. Soon pussy willows will grow their teeny rabbit tail buds on the dark branches.
Soon it will be easier to find something glorious. In fact, when spring comes the task is more how to avoid the glory. How to keep ourselves from spending the warm days parading around outside breathing in the delight of spring.
But right now, when I look out my kitchen window I am not seeing daffodils or crocuses or red tulip blossoms. I am seeing snow, not the freshly fallen snow of Christmas carols and calendar photos, but the tired old snow, old man snow, who has been hanging around this town too long, like a drunk in the gutter who makes you want to avert your eyes,
There are still three foot high piles of dirty old snow at the end of the driveway, for pityâ€™s sake. It is dark at the edges, still icy on top. No one wants a picture of this on their calendar.
Okay, I give up. Snow is falling fast and furiously. Weâ€™re back in winter wonderland; the old man drunken snow has a fresh blanket of fluffy stuff on top of him.
Â© Pam Roberts