OPINION: Spring fever starts to set in, and yes, I know better
March 8th, 2013 | Carey Restino
It's really warm outside. Today, the ice was coming off my house in huge, shaking slabs that made the dogs leap up from mid dream and bark at the ceiling. We've lost a foot of snow. I've been watching it sink down the sides of my greenhouse, teasing me. "Come out and play," it says. "Winter is over."
I know better than to be seduced by this idea. It's March. Not April or safer yet May. Winter will come back. The temperature will drop, it will snow, I will scrape the windshield again and again. I will shovel. It's not over. Except this little part of me, a tiny spot that moans about how hard last winter was with all its crazy snowstorms and how really we deserve an early spring, and after all, it's been such an easy winter, maybe it will just stay warm, and...
I know, it's crazy. But the real reason I want it to stay warm isn't because of the shoveling or the scraping. It's because I'm ready to garden. I actually started already, weeks ago, planting starts for my greenhouse. I'm trying to push the envelope - as far as possible, maybe even a month more than what we usually get in these parts. This weekend, I'm going to plant corn starts. Last year, I planted 40 feet of corn - which I figured out this morning as I was laying in bed listening to the water drip, amounts to about 100 baby corn plants. Say goodbye, dining room table. I'll see you in May.
I've already taken over the entryway with a glowing pile of tomato plants and peppers. They are taking off like tomatoes will, spreading their leafy greenery and screaming to be transplanted into bigger containers.
This march of green through my house has become a sign of the changing season, as predictable as the sun's expanding rays. This morning, as the kids ate breakfast, the sky was already light. We get up really early, so the light was a wonderful site. It's so much easier to drag floppy children out of bed when there is something visible in the sky.
I've been in Alaska for most of my adult life, and the coming of the light still surprises me. I don't expect it, and then, one day, the days are long enough to actually make a dent in my to-do lists. Sleep becomes less important. I find myself smiling a bit more. It's like holding your breath for months and then finally exhaling. Then, of course, comes the mania of summer and its endless activity, but that's later. For now, it's bliss.
When I was a child, spring meant one thing and one thing only - mud season. We lived at the end of a long dirt road, a road that did not have gravel on top of it. Each fall, the frost would work its way deep into the dirt, and every spring, the melting soil would create a quagmire where our road once was. For about a month, we would walk in and out, leaving our car out where the gravel started. Supplies had to be bought and brought in before breakup or you would suffer through a two-mile slog with a sack of flour on your back.
I'm pretty sure my parents didn't love mud season, but we kids thought it was pretty cool. Who doesn't love going for a walk down a road filled with caved in caverns where frost melted away. Each step was an adventure, sometimes ending with a boot rescue mission and more often than not with a lot more laundry than usual. This mandated time outside each day was bliss for me at this time of year, when light and sun start to call loudly.
Maybe that's why it's really hard to stay inside when the weather starts to change. When I bought my house, I insisted on no driveway or strange road access, learning from my childhood. But even though mud season now means little more than stocking up on wiper fluid, I find excuses constantly to go out and walk to the mailbox, or chip away at the ice that covers my boardwalk. I know it might not last consistently. I've even seen years when we got more snow in March than any other month, it seemed. But I'm going to remain optimistic for the time being. As soon as this paper is done, I'm going to go out and sprinkle coffee grounds on the snow on the garden and get that white stuff melting. It may be a futile effort, but it feels so good, it's worth it. And maybe that good feeling will carry me through when it starts snowing again.