Last week the snowdrifts outside my front door were taller than I am. Granted, that’s not a tremendous accomplishment if you’re a snowdrift, since I am not exactly a basketball center. But it had gotten to the point where I was tossing the snow on my front walkway over alabaster white corridor walls that were over six feet high. The path was exactly the width of my snow shovel.
And when I was done with the front walkway, it was necessary to scrape the snow off the roof, shovel a path to the woodshed, dig out my mailbox, and move the moguls away from the garage doors.
It was spectacularly beautiful and I’m not complaining. All of us have had a lot of cleaning up to do after the storms of March. And unlike some of my friends, I wasn’t stranded either at work or on the road somewhere. I wasn’t one of the superheroes manning the plows and fighting the good fight on our behalf against a mighty impressive blizzard.
And then, of course, after the snow we had days of rain and freezing rain. We had slush.
Well, today is the first day of spring. We are now a full week into daylight savings time. I feel no overwhelming need to wax poetic over how still Vermont becomes as a blizzard winds down or celebrate the preternatural quiet that envelopes our state in a snowstorm. I want to start experiencing all the wonderful meteorological charms that make spring so magic in the Green Mountains.
And, of course, that means mud season…in my basement. (Make no mistake, I like my basement. Sure, it’s a dirt floor and there’s that scary door in a dark corner that leads to nowhere. Details, details.)
Actually, mud season begins everywhere. I’ve lived in Vermont long enough that I know which roads in and around Lincoln become car-sucking slop – the insatiable quicksand of B-movies from the 1950s. It was nineteen years ago this month that a spring thaw, a rainstorm, and an ice jam near Montpelier’s Bailey Avenue Bridge would cause the Winooski River to flood the capital. That day my little Plymouth Colt was stuck on Quaker Street in South Starksboro from about 5:15 in the morning until just before six a.m., when a neighbor with a truck and some chains pulled me out. I was on my way to Danville to research a story about dowsing, and the fact I was stranded on Quaker Street for about 45 minutes meant I drove past Montpelier just as the ferocious white water was lapping the edge of the channel. It was fascinating and terrifying at once. I was listening to Vermont Public Radio as I drove, and moments after I was east of the capital, broadcasters would be describing the calamity as water poured into the city’s main streets.
The irony that I was about to meet with folks who specialized in finding water when it was in short supply was not lost on me. Only in Vermont.
In any case, spring here is nothing if not as newsworthy as winter.
And, yes, it is part of the price that we pay to live in this corner of New England. I wouldn’t live anywhere else, especially when I am biking up the Lincoln Gap in July or savoring the view from the top of Snake Mountain in late September. But one of the things that bonds us as a community is the shared reality that we live in a world of extremes.
Nietzsche wasn’t talking about Vermont when he wrote – and here I paraphrase – what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. He was probably writing about Charlie Sheen. But he could have been writing about the Green Mountains. After all, when they’re not green, they’re white. Or brown.
And, either way, they are going to exact from us a little sweat.
Bring it on: Soon enough there will be crocuses and daffodils in my front yard.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 20, 2011.)