Spring is the season between the end of winter and the beginning of summer. A place in the arrangement of the seasons, which places it at the very bottom of the totem pole. Summer being on the top, follow by either fall or winter, in the batting order I use. Summer has that wonderful distinction of being the warmest season, conjuring up images of the Beach Boys classic songs. Images of surfing the waves, running on the beach, and of course girls in bikinis. A young boy will remember summer because school, that most dreaded of all places, has ended for the year. Summer now for him will be playing baseball, swimming at the beach, catching frogs down at the brook, the brook your mother gave strict instructions to stay away from. My memories of summer as a young boy were these and so many more, memories of how summer feels, with the heat soaking into your skin, how it looks on a dog day afternoon, with the hot sun burning through the haze. Born without the sense of smell I have no way of describing the smell of summer, but imagine it to be a magnificent experience, one I will never know. Growing up my mother was forever shoving things under my nose; flowers from the walks we would take, a handful of earth from our garden, things I could tell from her expressions must have smelt good. She was that kind of mother, the kind that wanted her son to experience all that life has to offer. Years were to past before she would actually believe I had no sense of smell, and it was not just another prank I was playing on her. ďYouíre going to miss so much,Ē she would tell me with those sad brown eyes of hers.
Summer as a grown man is not catching frogs anymore, although I really donít know why, what could be better on a hot day then to wade a stream looking for frogs, at any age. Unless itís building a dam out of stones on the brook, the brook with the old wooden bridge at bottom of the hill, so my brother and I would have a place to swim. Even poling our home made wooden boat, the one mom took us to the lumberyard so we could buy the materials, up and down the heath pretending we were Tom and Huck, is not a grown summer memory. Today summer is for me still mostly out door adventures, only now they are more athletic, more physically demanding. I still relish the feeling of the suns warmth as it sinks into your skin, turning it a golden brown, even the warnings of skin cancer do not diminish for me this awesome feeling. Bicycling, especially touring is a way to combine two of my passions, one for the love of the sun and the other for its shear physical and mental demands on mind and body. Summer and bicycling go hand and hand with one another, making it no hands barred my favorite time of year.
Fall and winter are a tossup, leaving me to place them either way, on the totem pole of seasons. Both have for me tremendous draws, fall is still warm enough for my biking, while at the same time cool enough for hiking, one of my other passions. When I think of fall, I think of color, fall is color; I cannot state that fact more clearly. The unbelievable oranges, reds, yellows, and even greens of early fall set against a backdrop of deep blue sky, are beyond my descriptions. There is no way a mere mortal can accurately describe this phenomenal scene. No wonder it was my motherís favorite season, even though she would dread the coming winter because of it is hazardous driving conditions, fall was still her time of year. Trips with family and close friends to Vermont to see the colors, not the trees, but instead the trees in their magnificent fall colors, were always a yearly highlight for her. Her later years featured trips with her seniorís group and even boasted of a motor cycle trip one such fall at the age of eighty with an elderly companion, to see the colors. The colors of fall, those clear frosty mornings, and my mothers deep love of it puts this time of year in definite contentions for second place.
Reading what I have written about summer and fall would give you the idea that a person like me would absolutely hate the winter months, with their cold winds and blowing snows, with the short days of sun, not true. Winter is a time to put away all the summer activities like my bike riding, but it does not mean I have to become a Punxsutawney Phil and hibernate until Groundhog Day. Winter is for me still a very active time, some years in fact maybe my most active time, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing combine with the joys of winter camping, put winter high on the list. Deep snows of a traditional Maine winter, not like our last few, make for challenging workouts on skis or snowshoes, great for replacing the lost cardiovascular activities of summer. There is also a magical quality to this time of year, the sound of snow floating to earth, landing with a whisper like sound on the already fallen snow, moonlight glistening on fresh snow, are but a couple of examples that come to mind. Iím not going to get into the modern downside of winter, the high heating oil prices, the fact that a lot of people live in the cities with all the parking problems, most of these are not winters fault, they are political or logistical problems. I prefer the countryside of winter, clean white snow, a cozy wood fire, snuggling under a warm thick quilt, with just a little fresh air coming through the window, air you can feel good about breathing. I donít mind winter, if anything I look forward to winter every year.
This brings us to where I started. Spring! What is there about spring that I dread every year? Could it be the bone chilling dampness, the dark, dismal, gloomy days, or could it possibly be all the mud, the dogs, and us for that matter, track all through the house. Why does this depress me so? Where does this animosity come from? I have memories of standing guard duty in the dampness of a North Carolina night many years ago in early spring. So what, I also have memories of being soaking wet and shivering from mild hypothermia while hiking through a thunderstorm in the middle of summer. Obviously this is not the reason for my hatred of spring, not the dampness or the cold alone, but rather this combined with the lost of my winter activities, and the knowing that my summer activities are still a ways off yet. Thinking back to my childhood and young adult years I can see a problem with the way I am today, compared to that time in my life. I no longer do the fun things I used to do, tapping the trees and boiling maple syrup, chasing the elusive smelt ever northward, as the streams would melt, playing on the ice in the brook as a kid. When I think back, some of my fondness memories happen in this time of gloom, in this time of self-indulging pity.
Playing on the ice is something all young boys love to do, maybe because of the dangers, but most likely, because it was forbidden by parents. At least it was by mine. My dad was still alive in those days, and was a lot more understanding when it came to little boys interests, but even he would tell us to stay off the ice. We would have to wait for opportunity to appear, giving us a time slot, before calling the neighborhood kids, and telling them to hurry and meet us at the brook. The same brook where we made the stone dam, swam in the cool waters, fished for brook trout, was now an icy playground. All of you that never were little boys, never grew up next to a brook, or never lived where it was cold enough for ice, let me explain the adventure. In the spring, the ice is already starting to break up, making breaking off a huge piece not very difficult. Once free the ice will start to float down stream with the current, staying on this floating, tipping, very slippery ride as it makes its way into the faster, sometimes more turbulent water is all one has to do. I can plainly remember once when we all went in to the drink, so to speak, and were soaked from head to foot, scared we would be caught if seen in those wet clothes we hatch a plan, a plan that any general would have been proud to say was his. Well maybe not. Anyway the plan was simple sneak into basement, where the clothes dryer was kept, take off the wet clothes, dry them, put them back on, before anyone was the wiser. Although my mother was home at the time, we still could have gotten away with it without her hearing us, because mom had lost most of her hearing as a child from scarlet fever. Even with her hearing lost she still heard the laughing and tee-heeing us kids were making and came downstairs to see what all the noise was about, of coarse catching us in the act. Even generals and other military leaders screw up once in a while, look at the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
Maple sugaring and chasing the elusive smelt are stories in themselves, to long to get into here and at this time.
In conclusion let me just say this, early spring is the hard time for me, not later when the wild flowers are beginning to bloom, not when the fiddleheads are ready to be picked from their winter refuge, not when the alder leaves are as big as a mouseís ear and itís time to go fishing, that spring I do love.
After all this complaining, I just noticed on the calendar spring is still a week away yet. Maybe itís late winter that I hate.
Til next time Vic