Over Easy: Spring back and forth

For the Valley News
Published: 4/16/2022 7:07:32 AM
Modified: 4/16/2022 7:06:14 AM

Spring is served in the Upper Valley. You know the menu: an appetizer of fleeting sunshine, followed by angry clouds, a north wind and a demitasse of snow, sleet or freezing rain — with a side of mud.

Anyone who has lived here for long knows that we could rename the first five calendar months to replace January, February, March, April and May. Make them Januweary, Frostbite, Mud, Showers and Meh. After that, it’s pretty great until the first snow flies.

Spring has its surprises. At our West Lebanon bungalow, we have been visited of late by a mad robin, which has been launching airborne assaults against the window by the computer. The oddball bird may be seeing its reflection in the glass, which it mistakes for a hostile creature, or perhaps it has a terrible self-image. I do not understand the inner life of robins, so I’m not sure. I just try not to egg it on.

It has also taken to sitting by the window and staring in, ominously. I am not much of a horror movie fan, but many years ago I was affected by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, in which we almost lost actress Tippi Hedren to seagulls and other birds mysteriously turned violent. Protect your eyes! Protect your eyes!

I have never thought of robins as menacing. Every year when they return from Disney World, Las Vegas or wherever, they obsessively poke at my lawn looking for worms or whatever. They don’t do aerial tricks; they get right down to business. According to all-aboutbirds.org, they “eat different types of food depending on the time of day: more earthworms in the morning and more fruit later in the day.”

The website claims robins “often come to bird feeders.” According to the leading ornithologist in my yard — that is, me — they do not. I suppose they are waiting for me to put out a fruit spread around 4 p.m.

In any case, I think of robins as workmanlike and humorless, unlike chickadees, which seem spunky and full of joie-de-bird. With a little patience I have enticed them to eat sunflower seeds out of my hand. This is the sort of intimacy I appreciate in a bird.

Crows are cagey. Goldfinches flash like pieces of jewelry. Mourning doves are (there is no other word for it) mournful, like liberals thinking about the coming off-year elections. Then there are birds — I think of them as right-wingers but you can call them left-wingers if you wish — who perch on tree branches or electric wires and troll our cars with their droppings.

Which brings me back to the robin who seems to hate me. Not only does it knock against the window and give me the stink-eye, it has been leaving behind vast, nasty gobs of guano on the sill and deck. If it is sending a message, it is by no means friendly.

Even as I clean up after the robin, spring is busting out all over. The Lebanon Public Works Department is removing the tiresome grit from our streets. Just the other day a small machine was sweeping our sidewalks. This is the type of service that must make our small-town neighbors green with envy. The streets may not be paved with gold, but neither are they lined with what the PWD calls “winter sand.” No, only locally sourced summer sand from now on.

Recently, deer have been tiptoeing through the yard early in the morning and munching on our beleaguered euonymus bush. This happens while neighborhood dogs snore in their cozy beds. I woke up one day and rattled the storm door to scare the deer away.

I didn’t give them the official curmudgeon shake of the fist, though I was tempted to.

I live in a densely populated area. That makes me wonder where the deer come from and where they are going. The river? West Lebanon Feed and Supply? Dunkin’?

Anyway, some trends are improving even as others grow worse. We had several hours of sunlight the other day, which cheered me greatly. On the downside, kids have taken off their masks at school, which means that noses are running like the sap in March.

We won’t even get into COVID, though there were over 300 active cases reported on the Dartmouth College COVID dashboard Wednesday. I won’t be able to work on my tan until I can shed my mask — not yet!

I am well aware that I have registered annual complaints about our up-and-down, in-between season in this newspaper. I am, like spring, a broken record.

Oh well, summer is right around the corner. Take care to dodge the potholes on the way there.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

Valley News

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West Lebanon, NH 03784


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