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Column: In Cruel April, I Ache With Anticipation for the Warmth of Spring

Can this be April? A transplant from New York living 10 years in Vermont by now, I should be used to the month of April here in my new state. But with 2 feet of snow still lingering after such a long winter, when the Eye on the Sky forecasts a combination of clouds, rain and wet snow, I wring my hands. And when a day that should be spring-like materializes into mixed precipitation, I question our choosing Vermont as the place to retire. Of course, weather was not the deciding factor, and the days perk up once we say goodbye to March.

Still, April can be a tease. Some days, I sit outdoors for a few minutes on the steps leading to the patio with a cup of coffee in my hand, basking in the sun’s warmth, looking for signs of daffodils on the edges of the garden, where the snow has melted.

Then the next day, I’m back inside, feeding the wood stove.

On sunny mornings when I’m out on a walk with my dog, I begin to look beyond the ice-covered shorelines of local streams, casting about for skunk cabbage. I listen hard for peepers, scan bare trees for the flutter of a robin. I train my eyes on the brown patches along the roadside where I know the burgundy trillium will flower in the middle of three deep green leaves. But when?

I have thoughts of dusting off the patio table now stored in a dark corner of the basement so that we can consider lunch outdoors. At the same time, I contemplate spring chores: raking, cutting back the old growth I left in the garden for the birds to get the last of the seeds, dragging fallen sticks from the front yard to the back, behind the shed. Could we get our bikes out soon? Might we let the fire in the wood stove go out? It must be the arrogance of such musing that puts me in my place, inevitably calling for a bit more snow or the dreaded wintry mix for tomorrow.

Marking time, I wash the winter jackets and pack them away. I put on walking shoes and not boots, plan a shopping trip, clean the remnants of winter off our knee-high Sorels and take them to the attic. Seed catalogs arrive daily in my mailbox and I dream of growing decorative lettuce this year, amid the already established herbs in the garden near my kitchen door. And every mail-order company in the Northeast has our address to send along glowing photos of what we might do come summer.

As I sit inside with the fire still providing needed heat, I imagine a day not too far in the future when I can be on the water with friends, in my own lime-green kayak from LL Bean, all of us returning for a late afternoon on the rustic porch of a log cabin overlooking a lake, glasses of wine in hand as we smell the burgers cooking on the grill nearby.

I am not just restless but also a bit dispirited as I wait for spring. The anticipation of the holidays is long gone, the joy of getting a group together for cross-country skiing is past, and I’m tired of making breads and stews. The deep cranberry wool afghan I worked on during all those winter evenings is finished as well. I’m still reading good books, a source of pleasure I’ll never outgrow, but in books I’m living vicariously.

The yearning of April is ages old, among those of us who live with winter. Remember Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales? “When in April the sweet showers fall/And pierce the drought of March to the root,” and flowers bloom, breezes blow, and birds sing, “Then people long to go on pilgrimages …”.

His motley crew of Brits from every station in life have come out of hibernation to walk from London to Canterbury to pay homage to Thomas a Becket, telling stories along the way.

Although Chaucer’s journey may not be on your personal bucket list, the ache is the same. We, too, long to escape the cocoons of our closed up houses and resume active, connected lives outdoors: walking, biking, fishing, canoeing, gardening, camping … you name it. It can’t be long now.

Mary Otto is a resident of Norwich.