Here in Maine every spring has a breakout day, and yesterday was it.  The long winter loosens its hold and the promise of spring, like health care reform, has finally stopped being a contentious dream and has passed muster with the necessary votes.  Like the health care bill, spring is not a finished product, but like Obama, we will not let the perfect be the enemy of the, well, mediocre.  If the trees are still unleafed and the afternoon wind still chill, it really doesn’t matter because the basic melting is already in place and cannot be repealed.  God will tinker with spring as politicians will tinker with health care, but the direction is inexorable as is the tilting of the earth: green will be pushed forth, poor children will be cared for, lawn mowers will be primed and fired up, and coverage by the sun will not be denied just because winter is a pre-existing condition.

Still unpacking from German time, I threw on my Euro-style jacket and rubber boots to join Quan for a walk around the neighborhood. Before we leave the yard, the seven cats – Gandhi, Simon, Ozzie, Papa-san, Starman, Melio and Pookinello – are playing with the few rabbits – Pretty Girl and Beatrix, in this case – who choose to escape the rabbitat to enjoy the brief time of freedom between the end of the snow and the arising of the garden, at which point the holes will need to be plugged again.  It’s amazing how Quan has trained the cats to protect, not harass, the rabbits. (But she has not trained the rabbits to stay out of the garden – there are limits.)  Occasionally a forward bunny gets a tunk on the head with a paw if they sniff too close, but generally it’s the Peaceable Kingdom here, where the lions lay down with the lambs.

Apparently, PETA principles do not extend to turkeys. The tanagers have returned to the feeder, because Quan has chased the turkeys off, who were themselves chasing the little birds away.  All winter she has been feeding these, yup, wild turkeys, until the whole Gang of Nine was insistently gobbling away, milling around below her window from 5am on – not Quan’s get-up time.  Do not wake Quan untimely: she found her 22 pistol, slipped in the ammo cartridge and fired twice over the heads of the turkeys – and then couldn’t get back to sleep because of the ringing in her ears. The turkeys got the message loud and clear, and ran away.  They returned the next morning, and this time Quan went out and talked to them reasonably, and they haven’t been seen in the neighborhood since, after being here every day for the last three months.  The girl has a way with animals.

More rabbits snuggle in the sunny corner of the pen by the opened barn doors, mallards fluff new air through their wings as they cruise the brimming pond, and on the slope above the uniformed Canada geese are prancing and feinting in the mating dance.

On our walk, the human animal is much in evidence – we see neighbors we haven’t seen all the close-hauled winter: Wendy is brushing out her horse for an afternoon ride in the sun; Christa is on her determined walk around the block, sweater swinging from her waist; Timmy pulls up in sunglasses, sweats, and boots to deliver some lobsters for our dinner; Emma is out on her pink bicycle in only a T-shirt; Sally’s walking slow and little bent – still recovering from a serious rib-cracking kick by a horse – beside the ever effervescent Linda.

Down by the shore, little pollywogs or something like them dart around the vernal pools, the nuthatches chirp on the branches, and the wind ruffles the hair of the river playfully.  And back in the farm pond, as the sun sets, the wonderfully syncopated sound of the hundreds of peepers builds into a litany, punctuated by the bass tones of the few bullfrogs.

Soon, when the force of spring is full, it will turn to summer, and this small village will double in size as the tourists and summer people come.  We have a saying around here, more in wist than in earnest, that “If you can’t stand the winters, you don’t deserve the summers” – which does nothing to stop a number of people wintering in wherever and summering here, when it is heaven on earth.

If we take merit out of it, they do miss this liberating feeling of being finally uncovered, of seeing that which is dead take life and draw the first long cool, lung-unfolding breath of spring.  I am away so much that I almost qualify as a summer visitor myself, but I am glad to be here for this Easter – the holiday to the fertility goddess Astarte, Ashura for Muslims, Beltane for the wiccans – whatever you call it, it is the promise of the Resurrection – to feel for myself the sheer unstoppable force of life when finally powered by the advancing sun – our little remnant of the Big Bang that is the surest God of Biology.

One Response to “Breakout”

  1. Joel Says:

    Born in bred in Minnesota, I followed the woman who is now my wife to live in the Southwest for 5 years. While possessing its own splendor, I cannot express how wonderful it was to return to the midwest, to feel the actual change of season – especially spring after a long winter.
    I want to thank you for your beautiful writing. Please continue! I ask, as if you need another project, if you’ve ever considered gathering a collection of these and other written pieces for a personal reflections book?

    Joel Ronningen

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