Luskin: Harbingers of Spring

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(HOST) Years of living in Vermont have taught commentator Deborah Luskin that early spring here – is a season unto itself.

(LUSKIN) A few days ago, we woke up to a couple of inches of new snow after a day of sunshine and melt. Later, at the grocery store, I overheard a woman grumble that she wished "spring would get here already." I held my tongue but I wanted to remind her that in Vermont – this is spring.
What we’d had was ‘sugar snow’ – so-called probably because it comes during sugaring season, but possibly because this sprinkling of snow is like a dusting of confectionary sugar.
Sloppy as it is, sugar snow briefly brightens the landscape, then evaporates. Sugar snow is as much a sign of spring here as the first crocus. And while I admit to a certain impatience for spring flowers, I’ve learned to appreciate the early signs that indicate the gradual warming of the earth.
First, I welcome the return of the light. As the sunlight gets stronger I know that the cold is inevitably losing its grip, allowing ice to transform itself back into water.
Activity around the bird feeders increases. The goldfinch return, and as the season progresses, their dull winter plumage turns bright yellow. Already, there is birdsong in the morning where, in deep winter, there was just the hollow sound of the wind.
In the woods, the snow is littered with seed pods that will take hold in fertile loam as the snow melts. Snow in the fields turns gray with soot, and snow banks along the roads shrink. Just because these aren’t the stereotypical signs of spring as perpetuated in our greeting card culture doesn’t mean they aren’t important hallmarks of the season’s approach.
It’s true that not every harbinger of spring is welcome, and dirt roads can turn into a soupy mess. Negotiating ruts is like riding bumper cars at a carnival, only not nearly as much fun. Nevertheless, the mud itself gives off a fragrance of renewal.  And while muddy roads are tough to drive, they’re delightful to walk. Unlike winter’s ice, the mud gives. I’m less likely to slip and fall. Mud allows me to relax my stride. And if I do fall, I’ll only bruise my pride – and get dirty. 
But dirt is also a great sign of spring, and the dog brings in rafts of it, which triggers Spring Cleaning. With the spring sunlight slanting through the windows, I can see how dirty they are. I notice cobwebs in the rafters and dust balls the size of tumbleweeds.
But just like sugar snow, the urge to clean house won’t last. As Spring advances, I’ll want to dig in the garden. Meanwhile, I welcome the early signs of the season, and acknowledge that it advances and retreats before it truly arrives.

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