Friday, May 13, 2016
A Maine Spring
A Maine Spring is like bankruptcy. It occurs first very slowly, then all at once.
Early Spring is dreary. There are hangdog snowbanks here and there, slinking around in the shadows like teenagers outside a liquor store. The passing of the snow reveals the dirty landscape underneath. The ground has a hide of pasty russet leaves and trash lobbed out a car window. The world's color palette lingers in the crack between Payne's Grey and tanbark. Green will be a fever dream of heaven for many weeks.
I make the mistake of predicting leaves on the trees for weeks on end. "Tomorrow there will be leaves." It never happens. Then one morning you get up and look across the fallow field, past the highway that snakes along the river, and see a battalion of birches with an aureole of pure sap green, right from the tube. After that, the world falls off a green cliff.
It's the fog, you know. It's cool at night, always. There was ice in the birdbath three days ago. The sun has trouble shrugging it off in the morning, and a fine mist hangs on the ground like a comforter until sol wins out. The mist hurls down green shoots like a gauntlet.
People wonder aloud why anyone would live where we do. I'm people, so I wonder, too. But the six months from late Spring to Autumn here in the western Maine hills is as sublime a climate as I've seen. It's crisp in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and cool at night, every night. You can completely regulate your temperature by opening and closing a window, or putting on or taking off one garment.
If you ever wondered where the birds go, I don't. They're in my yard, living in the birdhouse you told me wouldn't work. The tree swallows jet all over the meadow, eating bugs and returning like a missile to their hole. Gold finches rocket overhead like buzzbombs. There's a mentally deficient robin named Kevin, who forgot to follow his fellows further north, who bangs on our window every morning, wondering if they're in there with us.
You can't miss Spring, and you can't miss Spring. Our neighbor gave us a dresser, so we gave him a birdhouse. My little son and I made it together. He painted it and nailed on all the trim. It had the look of a person's hand, a rare thing. My neighbor is a nice man and a good neighbor, and makes it tolerably tolerable to live here, too. We knew his birdhouse would linger longer on his desk than was wise to cadge a bird's eye for nuptials and nesting. We offered to put it on a post in his yard, for he is truly a busy man.
He gave me another great gift, and let me take my son across the street to plant our flag of friendship in his yard. My little son dug the post hole, and we put in a post left over from shoring up our house. We screwed the little bird house on top of it in the lee of a forsythia bush just donning its trashy golden mantle. My son had dug a posthole for a birdhouse in our yard, so I wasn't totally stunned at his alacrity and efficiency. I was grateful for a chance to let our child do any sort of chore that would push his walk towards being a man forward even one step.
The next day -- the very next day -- my neighbor sent us pictures of the bird that had moved into the house. It reminded me that Spring, and a boy becoming a man, occurs first very slowly, then all at once.