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Over Easy: The windup, then the spring

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)



For the Valley News
Friday, April 05, 2019

I believe I have groused previously about Upper Valley spring, but this time I really mean it.

Although I can’t speak for everyone, I will. Allow me to rant: Upper Valley Spring 2019 is a mess. We are on the road to May flowers, but the April Expressway is sloppy and wet, with winter litter everywhere.

Maple Street in West Lebanon is molting, shedding asphalt in ugly clumps. The worst section, where buses cut through, looks like it’s been hit by small artillery fire from rebels in the hills.

Some years ago the city installed two bumps on the street to slow the local Speed Racers. Now potholes and frost heaves have joined the cause. When I walk by, I hear the death rattles of mufflers and cars bottoming out with a horrific thud. Pothole first-responders arrive on the scene with shovels of fill, but they can only do so much. This is bigger than all of us.

Dust clings to the village; sunrise has a 5 o’clock shadow. When the wind gusts, winter sand and salt swirl down Main Street in nasty little clouds. I think of particles invading my lungs and my sinuses, drying and coating innards that should not be dried or coated. I could wear a bandana, but that might be misinterpreted.

Our yard is worn, wan, rheumy. Water lurks where it shouldn’t, for instance our driveway. Ice hides in north-facing shadows, trying for one last take-down. It feels personal.

Only the neighborhood dogs are energized (as are the birds, who have nothing but sex, sex, sex on their minds.) As feces thaw along with the urine-soaked ground, canines are thrilled by revealed wonders. I see them tugging on leashes as if ready for the Iditarod. And, once they find a mother lode, they conduct forensic examinations that put the FBI to shame.

Spring brings soggy memories. When my grown children were little, winter games were over by now, but spring was dragging its feet. I remember taking 10 minutes to dress them and get them out. They were wet and cold and done in five.

Then there were the years of spring sports, which in the Upper Valley are mocked by Mother Nature. You cannot play a decent game at shortstop in galoshes.

My memories of spring disappointment go back even further. I was cut from my high school baseball team my freshman year before we even got out of the gym. That stings to this day, and I blame spring. Who knows how far I could have gone? Major Leaguer Bryce Harper recently signed a $330 million contract. I, who never got a chance to even swing the bat before I was dismissed, did not.

Comparing his fate and mine might seem like flawed reasoning, but you never know: America is the land of opportunity and lottery tickets.

Discouraged, I turned to outdoor track, where I threw the shot put. The wordsmiths at Wikipedia describe the event this way: “The shot put is a track and field event involving “putting” (pushing rather than throwing) a heavy spherical object — the shot — as far as possible.” That about sums it up. We, the putters of the shot, were banished to some corner safely away from people and their delicate frames. No one sings The Star-Spangled Banner for shot putters.

But this time of year people truly yearn for the outdoors. Forest trails are inviting, but forbidden until they dry out. On a nice day you could fly a kite, but breezes turn into gales that hurl kites into power lines. Country friends bring us tales of muddy roads that make the heart — and axles — sink. “You just stick to the middle and hope no one comes the other way,” one told me. As for me, I will revisit the country in June.

In the last throes of winter, I see people growing anxious and bitter. We all suffer from the terrible toos: too windy, too cloudy, too rainy. The days swing wildly from snow squalls to rainbows. The jet stream rides a bucking bronco.

Then someone spies a daffodil and everything changes. The sun shines bright, the air warms and it is as if the Berlin Wall has fallen again. Upper Valley residents head outside in shorts, though it is only 42 degrees out. In late summer, this would seem folly, but in spring there is the powerful warmth of hope.

Unleash the Frisbees! Embrace the light! Uncover arms and legs white as polar ice!

We are tightly wound, and spring, such as it is, has sprung.

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