The Idylls of March

The other day I was asked what my favorite time of the year is in Vermont, and I surprised myself by answering, “March.” It was a reflexive and completely sincere response.
Now, I probably wouldn’t have come up with March if I were a daffodil, crocus, or tulip. I look at the crocuses scattered throughout our front yard, and I swear they all have a death wish. No sooner do they emerge from the earth and bloom, than they are flattened by a blanket of heavy, wet snow.
And I understand that some folks aren’t exactly wild about mud season. They have seen their cars sucked into the slop one too many times. Certainly that’s happened to me, too. Years ago, when I hadn’t yet figured which cars can successfully navigate which dirt roads, I was driving my powerful Dodge Colt hatchback on the northern tip of Quaker Street in South Starksboro. The road is largely dirt, and that section is a steep hill that descends toward Vermont 17 the Appalachian Gap. The mud there in March becomes a car-slurping quagmire: A slow-motion waterfall in which vehicles disappear into the slough like bread in a toaster. One morning my Colt, despite all that squirrel power under the hood, hit a mud rut on the hill, and the next thing I knew I was in so deep that I couldn’t open the front door. I actually had to climb out the window to extricate myself from the vehicle.
But the thing is, I was only stuck there for about 15 minutes. A neighbor with a truck and chains soon came along, and I was on my way. Sure, my car looked like one of those relics unearthed from the Titanic after a century underwater, but that Colt actually had endured far worse including one icy winter morning, when it did the lambada with an oncoming school bus and lived to tell.
March, however, is about far more than mud season. It is also the start of the sugar season, since maple and mud are meteorological cousins. And no sane person can help but love the sugar season. There are few better sensations than the chance to stand in a sugarhouse turned into a sauna, with the steam the aroma of maple syrup.
And just as the sap starts running once more in March, even here in the Land of the Polar Tomato there are the universal signs of spring and rebirth: That first green haze along the tips of the trees as the buds start to emerge. The sound of the frogs in the early evening. The return of the bluebirds which are also, I should note, a source of unending interest to my cats. Even the Girl Scout cookies arrive in the month of March.
Best of all, perhaps, is the length of the days. We are approaching the vernal equinox, that pivotal moment when the days once more are longer than the nights. From March until June, we are in that wondrous period when the future increasingly warmer and brighter days is unfurling before us like ribbon. We have, for the next three months, both the pleasures of spring and the promise of summer.
Moreover, there are those days when the temperature will creep into the 50s, and not simply because humankind has wracked such havoc on the environment. A person can sit outside at noon on those days and eat lunch.
Sure, there will be more snow here in the faux tundra of northern New England. And there will be ice. Here in Lincoln, I have seen snow on Mother’s Day and flurries on Memorial Day Weekend.
Nonetheless, I savor those moments when I smell the steam from my neighbor’s sugarhouse or I hear the peepers or I realize as I am sitting down to dinner that it is still light out. March bears a reputation for ornery weather. But it also offers just enough hints of the wonders before us that I don’t mind a little mud in the mud room.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 4, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “The Idylls of March

  1. Michael S, Boston says:

    Chris, that was a lovely view on the Madness of March in Vermont, you truly see it’s beauty as I do. I want to share that we here at the Back Bay Readers Group are reading “Double Blind” for a discussion at the end of the month. We are a new group however the interest is overwhelming and Trident Booksellers has been gracious enough to get the copies needed for the members. As the group liaisan I wanted to let you know that your book is the first in our hopefully long history.

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