Anticipated Thaw


Huntington likes to retain a small-town atmosphere, some of which involves periodic parades.  This is the annual St. Patrick’s Day setup, a bit early so as not to conflict with other, later, grander ones around the region, particularly in New York City.  Children like the excitement, parents like the generational connections as they remember other parades they attended with their parents, only the motorists on the closed major highways are really upset.  Vendors (none of Irish descent) sell various green trinkets appropriate to the occasion.

Parades are one thing that has surprisingly not changed much since I first remember them.  There are still marching bands, decorated cars, walking functionaries.  People have a few beers and cheer whatever may come along.  Everyone is glad to celebrate almost anything as a break in what has been a dismal winter.  Thank fully,  these events have not yet been invaded by electronics other than too much amplification of the speeches of those who think they are important.  But that, of course, has also always been traditional.

Icebound boats are rare, especially this late.  Usually, some enterprising clammer or other has cut a path out to the inlet, seeking riches while the supply to market is relatively restricted.  Either the ice is too thick this year, or the baymen are discouraged by the unrelenting cold.  This picture will be fully changed in one week, already the pack is breaking up from the end of the harbor, ducks and geese and swans flocking into the open waters.

It’s been nice flying in from somewhere else, having missed the daily drudgery, only catching the last glamour of what was hopefully the final snowstorm.  Not having had to endure the hardships _ like most tourists _ I am free to be enchanted by the beauty.  Since I am not planning to fly out again, I can confidently state that after only a week of this I am also about to cry “enough already!”

Snowpack remains deep and hard to walk on, but dogs and their (nominal) masters have packed parts of the hill here at Coindre Hall into solid ice.  With warmer temperatures, the inlet is completely open, and the rest of the harbor covering is quickly receding.  From the picture alone, it could be late December or early January, but actually standing outside there is too much solar radiation and other subtle signs that this is late in the season.

Naturally, by now I am very anxious for any signs of spring.  The first green shoot appearing above the first cleared garden soil, the first hint of grass, the slightest swelling of tree buds.  Meanwhile, it is impossible to miss the increased birdcalls, although this year even their mating activities seem subdued.  Nature will take its course and all will unfold into glorious bloom, but meanwhile we try to fast forward and are simply frustrated.

It’s a certainty these hydrangeas will not bloom again this year _ the buds have been blasted once again.  Now there is simply the question of whether the roots survived or not.  The same with the fig trees and many other ornamentals and invasives _ plant and animal.  The coldest month in almost a hundred years will cause some problems in what has been a long and slow extension of growing zone over the decades.

I keep hearing people exclaim that they are ready to move “I can’t take this any more.”  Fortunately, our society will permit them to do so without much aggravation.  But I wonder what they will say if hurricanes hit three years in a row, or heavy flooding, or deep drought.  How many times should we fly from the aggravations we know to those we know not of?  Perhaps it is generally better to stay put and adapt yourself as much as possible.  Easy for me to say _ I escaped the worst of it this time.

Yes, this represents melting and breakup, but it is late and the ice floats are so thick that boats still cannot punch their way through here nor on any of the other near bays.  No icebreaker has been called, although I did see one frustrated clammer walking out to his boat and attempting to chop a passage out.  A few less hardy boats have been crushed and sunk, only their masts showing through the crust.

One day in the fifties, and the rest deep freeze at night, thirties during the day, and in spite of the best efforts of the sun, winter is taking its time.  A few areas have now opened on the ground where the drifts were lower, and in these I can sometimes see a green or red shoot.  A few birds have come back to the full feeder, but the numbers are less than a tenth of what they seemed to be in January.  Last year there were robins everywhere, and not a sighting so far.  But, on the bright side, no snow has fallen for a week now _ I guess that’s progress.

Spring advances here and there, the natural world begin to stir to its mysterious rhythms of duration of daylight, warmth, and internal clock.  High up, the pussy will buds are swelling red, soon to open into soft grey.  Where snow has melted back, there are leftover blades of greenish grass.  I imagine that could I peer beneath the waters alongside me, I would be amazed at the activity.  Lichen is glowing brightly whenever the frequent rains arrive.  If I dared to walk through the still deeply-piled woods and perhaps dig a bit, I would surely find fruiting moss and skunk flowers in bloom.

The trick, I find, is not to keep waiting and hoping for a perfect day, with brilliant sun and no wind and warm air and life just so, but to start by assuming each day is perfect and then find reasons that it is so.  What is, just is, and that is the wonderful and amazing world we are privileged to inhabit for a while. 


Fog can be interesting not just for its blurring effects but for the many metaphors our minds manufacture concerning it.  Somehow it can come to represent the future, or the state of our knowledge, or the meaning of our lives.  Once in a while it seems almost evil, hiding what might be threats.  Other times it seems a soft cocoon against the harshness of the outside world.

Fog is also prevalent as seasons and weather patterns change, when warm and cold collide, one way or another.  I find it a useful marker of changes to come, a separation from what was to what will be.  That is my own mind’s metaphor, of course.  One of the deeper questions I can ask about life is whether the fog itself is more real than my perception of it.




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