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First thaw

March 5, 2010
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Winter is melting. It’s like a strong, galloping horse that’s finally been broken.

I spent yesterday morning outside with girlfriends and kids at the local skate park of all places. We’re all so starved for warmth, the Mamas congregated on the heat-absorbent concrete, lounging and eating our kids’ snacks like we were at the beach. The kids—who’ve been meeting up every Thursday since they were drooling infants—spent an hour trying to claw a “big nail” (survey stake) out of the ground with their bare hands. I think they were thrilled just to be touching dirt.

Rose's favorite spring activity: gobbling dried crabapples.

Even though March is typically one of the wetter months here in the San Juan Mountains, suddenly, the moisture seems so useful, so practical. You can watch it—like a sped-up movie—as it falls, collects and melts, feeding the chives that are spearing up from the mud like caricatures of garden vegetables. Except it’s not a sped-up movie, and those chives are real food!

Chives; real live backyard food!

We even dabbled in bike-riding this week. It was just a stunt as first, just Col tracking up the gluey mud bog in our yard. And suddenly he was rolling down our driveway, then cruising down our street. Before anyone could think twice, I popped Rose in the backpack and we were off. We didn’t even have mittens. And even the snowsuits the kids were wearing that day were less survival-ration and more protection in the event of puddle stomping.

We ventured farther from our house on foot than we had in months and it felt a little Lewis and Clark-like, intrepidly fording the newly-thawed streets, pushing it one more wild block, hoping we’d make it home before having to bivouac under a big spruce tree and cook up a neighborhood dog.

(You did read Undaunted Courage, right? The story of Lewis and Clark’s journey West? Lots of dog-eating).

And even with the robins singing and the snowmelt trickling, it still felt sort of strange and awkward, like we were auditioning for a part in the movie called spring. But the sight of Col, peddling down a sidewalk, waking up dormant muscles with each revolution of his snow-booted feet, was like the universe whispering in my ear (perhaps with a Jamaican accent) “every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

Mostly thawed.

I didn’t even get impatient when Col prowled around the shelter of a spruce tree picking up “spruce pine cones” declaring “this one looks like a jellybean! This one’s an arrowhead! This one’s a pinto bean. Look at this one Mama! Does it look like a banana? This one’s…” Meanwhile Rosie was testing out rhymes. “Does helmet rhyme with babelmet? Does crayon rhyme with bram? Does shoe rhyme with school?” After a couple minutes of my ears being battered by exuberant children on both sides I just started declaring “right!” at regular intervals. Sometimes I think I need a pre-recorded tape of myself doling out cheery responses. It would sound a little like this: “Great honey!” Pause. “Nice!” Pause. “Wow!” Pause. “Look at that!” This morning Col busted me exclaiming over his lego rocket race car helicopter while I was making coffee. “You have to look Mama.”

Of course there will be another stretch of days where we huddle inside and peer out the window watching the snow take back all the sun’s hard work. I still crunch through several feet of it on my way to and from the chicken coop every day. But March snow seems so benign, like catching a glimpse of that chemistry teacher you hated, on the last day of school. Even a casual boot stomp can press out all the meanness in a clump of snow.

Chickens processing to mud bog.

What’s on your pre-recorded tape? (I have another one that goes: “Col, please stop! Whoa! Don’t touch! Hey, put that down! Don’t throw an antler at your sister!”)

Has spring come to your neck of the woods? Tell me how! And may your weekend be full of cheery responses.



15 Comments leave one →
  1. Eliza permalink
    March 5, 2010 10:39 am

    This was a very lovely and well-written post!

    We finally made it to 40 degrees! Wahoo! I felt like jumping for joy (and maybe I did, a little). There’s glimpses of green in our beds….iris, crocus, daffodil, and tulips dipping a toe to test the sunshine. It’s marvelous. Oh, and a snowsuit is no longer required for a stroller ride…just a fleece outfit and a warm blankie will suffice!

    Happy Spring!

  2. March 5, 2010 11:05 am

    Spring! We went to the park yesterday and needed our sunhats. (And I sometimes feel like I need a tape recorder of myself, too, just to count the number of times I say “Wow!” in one day.)

  3. March 5, 2010 11:07 am

    It’s been pretty warm this week, but I managed to get some fun pictures of the snow melting from the trees after our last snow storm. Also, just last night I put up a new banner of my daughter sledding. I guess we haven’t gotten enough snow this year for me to let go of winter… just yet.

  4. abozza permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:20 pm

    The daffodills that surround our mailbox and grow outside of our front door have started to pop their little heads out. Part of me wants to tell them to go back to sleep, just a little longer, but the other part of me LOVES what they represent!

  5. March 5, 2010 1:02 pm

    We’ve got the cherry blossoms all in bloom. And the mudbath that is our yard is sometimes drying out for hours at a time.

  6. March 5, 2010 2:37 pm

    It’s 67 degrees today! I am very nearly delirious.

  7. March 5, 2010 4:49 pm

    My pre-recorded tape is very similar to yours! Shazam (is that how you even spell that?!) is used commonly around here too!

    We’ve had three days of bare feet and snacks on the front porch in tee shirts. One step closer to spitting watermelon seeds :)

    Lovely weekend to you too…

  8. Steph permalink
    March 5, 2010 8:38 pm

    Nice post. I really could not see the end of winter this year, until this week. Once again, I LOVE the photo of the chickens. They are so cute traipsing through their snow tunnel!

  9. Ami permalink
    March 5, 2010 9:06 pm

    Rachel – It’s been too long since I’ve read your words! I adore the way you weave linguistics into a perfect basket containing the bounty and beauty of life in all it’s rhythmic simplicity. I also live vicariously through your eloquent descriptions of life where the seasons are more distinct and extreme! My favorite part of this post is where you describe the feeling that you’re merely auditioning for spring – although I don’t think it would be a movie… more like a musical! At any rate – I feel the same here, where one day the sun shines and for two or three days after, the rain pours down cold! But just today, I was noticing the abundance of that glorious shade of green, where the plants are putting out leaves faster than they can fill them with chlorophyll… it’s everywhere, the promise that the seasons are indeed turning! I am also quite inspired by your food exchange, and find I simply must motivate to create this in my own community of whole foods-preparing mamas! Thanks for your words, they really do mean so much to me! :) Happy thawing!

  10. March 5, 2010 10:12 pm

    This post me laugh. Love that your son busted you when you didn’t look at! My son has busted me too.

    Low 40’s today..but here in MN and WI that means get out the shorts!

  11. March 6, 2010 9:22 am

    oh rachel. such richness in your words and photos.

    i love how i can’t help but nod and chuckle and utter small affirmations as i read.

    the sped-up movie…the caricatures of vegetables….auditioning for a role in the movie called “spring”…the pre-recorded tape of cheerful responses.

    just gorgeous my friend.


    oh and my pre-recorded tapes…i have the super sugary-sweet….oooohhhhh great! that’s so nice! wow…good for you!…

    (i’ve come to recognize this one as a red flag that i am saturated with kid energy and in need of some quiet, mama time.)

    and there’s the deep grumbly-voiced that bellows….guys!!!! that’s enough. too far. bring it down. settle it.

    (this is when i haven’t taken that much needed quiet, mama time and i’m really, really totally flooded over with kid energy.)

    mercifully i’m starting to “get it” and make space for quiet when i’m starting to feel saturated and my kids are starting to “get it” that if i start grumbling it’s good to listen and respond because the next round of pre-recorded tapes is not fun for anyone involved.

    luckily those last tapes have been playing a LOT less around here lately.

  12. March 6, 2010 3:24 pm

    This was a lovely post.

    I read it on a slow connection where the photos did not show up right away and found myself jealous that spring had sprung where you are. But then when they appeared I saw that your snow is just as deep as mine and, once again, I was reminded about the importance of perspective.

    Today we have bright sun and temperatures in the 40’s so yes, I suppose, spring is on the way!

  13. March 7, 2010 10:35 pm

    oh i love the beginning of *spring*. i actually love playing in the muddy snow and wet puddles of this time of year here in maine!! happy splashing and bits of green. xo, pennie

  14. March 7, 2010 11:32 pm

    Well we are pretty close to you but not much bare ground to be seen yet, though the girls did find their way to a bit of mud. The garden sure is still buried though…
    May I comment on past posts too… Love to see your greens growing! And your one small change project is wonderful too! I bake all of our bread but yogurt is on my list of things to make soon… And… hey, it’s Sheryl! Small world…
    Renee :)

  15. Michelle permalink
    March 8, 2010 3:12 pm

    I love the little reminders of life in Durango I get when reading your blog. It is a special place for my husband Mark & me, we met there studying geology at FLC, left & returned again 10 years later with two little boys. We only left because of work, but we hope to be able to spend more time there again soon (Mark works out of his Airstream when in NV, so we’re hoping we’ll be able to live/work from his mobile office for a stretch in the SW soon).

    Strangely, it has seemed like spring for awhile in Maine. It is like the weather is one month ahead of schedule. I love the feeling of spring, but don’t like the feeling that it is much warmer than it should be at this time of year.

    My pre-recorded tapes aren’t very good, I need new ones. Silas often complains that he can tell by the way I answer him that I’m not really listening!

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