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You begin to eye the gathering pile of colorful garden catalogs with renewed interest and find yourself considering the list of local sugar houses in the paper. Unexpectedly, birds you haven’t seen for months appear at the feeder. The unmistakable scent of skunk once again permeates your sleep.

The snow piles condense and then rapidly shrink to invisibility. The woodpile is greatly diminished and your thoughts revolve from inward to outward. The world seems suddenly fraught with ripe new possibilities. Of course, you realize there may be snowstorms 4 to 6 weeks after the calendar has declared an official beginning to spring, but the snow will not last long now and the end is in sight.

After a long, cold, dark winter, most New Englanders have at least a touch of cabin fever. A bit of ‘maple sugar tonic’ goes a long way to ease the symptoms. Steadily dripping icicles and slightly warmer, longer days, resulting in patches of green grass islands amongst a sea of melting snow, has a more sustaining effect.

Bare earth appears in muddy and green patches, you can smell the soil! Small green buds appear at the end of anxious exposed branches. Pussy willows burst forth proclaiming the season ready for them. Culverts rush with unseen water traveling to thawing lakes and rivers.

Soon, folks are even getting excited about mud. But that doesn’t last long. The excitement I mean. The mud always lasts too long. But it usually means the end of snow so it’s all part of the process.

Once the ground is warm enough to work, most of us are out looking for signs of rhubarb poking through, a little patch to plant some early peas or even testing the air to determine if it’s warm enough yet to let the leggy houseplants out for a bit of a spring break.

We’re checking our basements for water and fences for breakage. How did the fruit trees fare over the winter? The first lilacs are beginning to perfume the air.

Before you know it, the fruit trees are covered in fragrant bridal bouquet blossoms and the bees are going wild. The birds are looking for the best nesting places and busily gathering materials to build with.

Hoses begin to sprout from the sides of houses and cars are gratefully being washed. Fishing rods and golf clubs are dusted off and favorite fishing spots are traversed to. Suddenly, everyone is talking about ‘the hatch.’

Who spots the first hummingbird? The geese are returning in full-throated rejoice mode. April vacation plans are causing excitement in the school children (and no doubt the teachers!). Golf courses are emerging from their shaggy white winter coats and golfers are driving by daily to assess the conditions for play.

Soon earth is being turned and seeds are chosen. A few crisp nights make us watch the moon and garden carefully. When the proper alignment of calendar and lunar phases has been determined, planting begins with a fervor. We are only too aware of the brevity of the growing season anywhere in New England. Every day counts and we can’t afford to lose a single one now!

No sooner do the soft green garden shoots put out secondary leaves, and the danger of frost is past, than it seems the summer solstice is upon is. Ironically, we all shake our heads realizing that the longest days of the year are already behind us. Now we want to slow down the eternal cycles and drag our feet a bit to make the halcyon days of summer, last as long as possible. We embrace the heat and give ourselves over to the next season, like a willing sacrifice.

Welcome Spring !