Halcyon Days

These halcyon days! between the ice and bugs, when we have none of either.  When the sunshine is strong enough to have some warmth when you’re in it, but the wind still has some bite when it hits you, especially coming off that still frigid water.  Yesterday I lay in the lee for ten whole minutes, back to the ground – warm grass on cold soil – watching the tree above me bud.

I think it’s Robert Frost, writing of Vermont (but this is inexact, for sure):

Stand in the sun in the noon of the day
And you’re one month down in the middle of May
Then the wind comes over the frozen arch
And you’re one month back, in the middle of March

Spring fever is no joke when the winters are as long and hard as they are here.  Seize the rake for the delirious binge piling branch detritus of winter storms on the lawn, grab the saw for a satisfying orgy of brush cutting, callous your hands and cover them with pitch picking up all the pine branches and cuttings to barrow them over to the burn pile.  Get a permit and a few cases of beer, mull some wine and have a bonfire party – it’s Beltane, and the winter spirits are being freed from the ground to fly about on the wind.  The flowers follow these escaping sprites, poking up more every day – crocuses open each morning, the tulips are trying to follow.

The snarl of chainsaws and thunk of mallets is everywhere in this rural neighborhood, where sounds carry well in the clear air through the naked trees.  The orchard men are pruning, laying down mulch, and checking the pumps on the sprayers. The fishermen awake from their long winter naps and begin to repair their traps and ready their boats.

For me, a lightweight dilettante rich person, it is time to start plaguing the boatyard about getting Tycha in.  Most years I fight, but this year Mike, Charlotte, and John have all taken pity on me, or maybe it’s become a point of pride to have the first boat in the area in the water and sailing before most have taken off the covers and begun scraping.  Most folks aim to get their boats in up here before the 4th of July weekend, when the season really starts.  (The yard-owner Mike, a large man who has become even larger with a winter full of travel and good meals, will slim down to skin and sinews by the time he finally relaxes after 12-hr days between now and the 4th.)  But I love the spring winds, so I like to say I want the boat in before I pay my taxes (and I hate filing for an extension), but early May is the more usual reality.

This year, I hope for next week, late April.  Dress warm, put on some sailing gloves, and this is the time of year for great dances between wind and water, alone on the sea, before there are fishermen twirling around their lobster pots to avoid, or summer visitors ‘from away’ who try to claim this coast as their own for the summer months, gunning their engines or flying their spinnakers.

Can’t wait.  But that’s next month, a dream to hold in my febrile state – these weeks its clean up: getting the insulation down and the screens up, the water on and tight in the cottage and the anti-freeze out of the toilet, trundle the dock out of the field down the ways to the water and pin its runway to the edge of the deck with the iron bar that has served this purpose for uncounted years.  Wrestle the outboard onto the scow, set the moorings by pulling the chain up through the 0 degrees Kelvin water as yet unclouded by plankton, hank it over the tipping gunnel with one hand while setting the buoy shackle with the other.

It’s real work, man’s work, not the feminine dance of my daily toil in the land of healing (which I love also, but c’mon…).  These are yearly rituals that loom, ripple over you in the change of seasons, and then lie a-wait for the other end of the sun’s path when the ritual reverses and things slide back into their shell for the winter.

Brrr – that’s too far ahead for my spring-obsessed mind to want to travel.  It’ll come, and soon enough, but meantime there’s a sun with heat, warming ground, and a world of objects large and small to align with the coming solstice.


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