It's that time of year again here in northern New England when there seems to be some indecision as to whether winter is indeed over. Yes, spring is officially only a little more than three weeks away, but we've been known to get some pretty wintry weather at this time of year. It's like Old Man Winter is puffing himself up like the robins I see in the trees outside my window and saying something like "I'm not finished with you yet!" And then, at first light, there are the birds singing as they haven't since last summer, which indicates that we're much closer to the start of spring than to that of winter.
Birds know things we don't about air pressure and sunlight and live their short lives by laws we only find fascinating in the reading of. Although species like the American robin often doesn't migrate very far and the Northern Cardinal never leaves, neither sings until spring, leaving no doubt that the season has indeed arrived.
After the spate of snowstorms we have here recently, this sunshine and higher temperature are both welcome. Snowbanks shrink daily, the sun casts shadows that stick around a bit longer, and even the sky seems bluer between what few clouds there are. There's a smell in the air, too, that is absent during the winter's bleakest moments, the aroma of the earth reawakening and moving back to her vanity where all manner of scents are to be found...that of the thawing soil and the sweet aroma of the burgeoning grass...the intoxicating headiness of the first flowers and the fresh smell of rain washing what's left of winter away.
While winter's not quite done with us yet, I still love this time of year. We can give ourselves permission to hope now, for it no longer takes as long to count out what time is left before the first leaves appear on the trees and the geese head north again.
"Poor, dear, silly Spring," the poet Wallace Stevens wrote..."preparing her annual surprise!" How accurate an assessment that is! For no matter how sure we are that she's coming, no matter how often we greet her or how many winters we've lived through, what she brings is indeed always a surprise and always, always, a lovely one!