Smells and sounds

The sheer joy of being at home again.  I went through spring in Germany, and will have to do it again here, as the only sign of spring in the two weeks I have been gone is ice-out in the ponds, and most of the ground is visible again as the snow recedes.  The trees know spring is upon us; Adam has already starting boiling the maple sap down to syrup and you can catch a whiff as you drive by. But otherwise the trees are wooden and bud-free, and the ground is barren, even of crocuses.

Annie sees it coming too, and is germinating seeds in the greenhouse in trust of future warmth. Step inside and you are suddenly in Carolina, with the earth-under-glass giving off its peaty smell. Nothing much showing here yet, but with this, the compost, and the hop house to come, we are hoping to extend the growing season here by a month or two at either end.

All winter in Maine the frozen air is devoid of smells.  It is a blessing and a respite from animal urine and moldy odors, part of what gives winter its purity and other-wordliness.  Spring is marked by the return of smells: the icy pile of wood shavings and horse droppings begins to warm and emanate in the sun, the garage begs for spring-cleaning with a hint of trapped mold sighing for air, the nose takes its place again in the world of the senses.

But the food for the ears changes too: Last night I went to the barn to check the doors were closed – a windy spring night – and I heard the first of the peepers in the pond – sounded like a bullfrog or two as well, actually – that uniquely piercing yet soothing burble that is the unmistakable and error-free harbinger of spring.  And even in the dark, a couple of geese sounding their klaxons as they move from one piece of open water to another.

The waterfront waits longer for spring: the water itself stays cold all spring, making work down there harder until later.  But I put on my boots to just check out the pier for any fresh disasters that may have occurred when I was gone.  The mussel boys are loading tons of the black almond-shaped fruits de mer off their barge, and I prevail upon them – as one may in the waterfront world – to help me launch my Dad’s old scow.  With the help of the derrick, cable, and a big old hawser, we get the old thing of the ways that have broken underneath it during the winter.

Without the ways, I cannot launch the boat; without the boat out of the way, I cannot fix the ways (a track of timbers from the water to high on the bank), so this was a great help.  I spend more time on that old boat than any other single item on this estate, and for less return, since we hardly ever use it.  But it is Edward’s, and will be launched and beached until some line is crossed, and it is abandoned, as my Dad thought of himself.

In any case, it is great to drop the computer keys and the laser pointer and do some real work for a change.  My muscles are weak, and they start to creak alive as I clean up the winter’s fallen branches, pump the boat dry of meltwater, work my fingers on a winter’s worth of knot tightening.  Come, spring! (easy to believe on this Easter Sunday)  Come, warmth! Come, time to do the work of renewal for the earthy things – and here it is, at least until the next gig looms.


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