Still Waiting for Spring
Christina writes: Near the end of January I wrote in an e-mail: ‘Thankfully, so far the heavy snowfalls hitting the Midwest and East Coast have missed us. We have had only light falls of a few inches, but have experienced several periods of very cold weather. Still, just before the last snowfall I was happy to see the green leaves of some snowdrops pushing up through the earth, a harbinger of spring.’ This was tempting fate! Only a few days later, the first of a series of snowstorms covered those green leaves, and it was only with luck that we weren’t affected as badly as coastal areas to the east and south: the worst storm gave us about 18 inches (46 cm). Most of the time, the temperature was well below freezing even in the daytime, occasionally warming enough for a few days to produce long icicles hanging from the roof, or even allow avalanches of huge chunks of ice which fell to the ground with frightening thuds.
Towards the end of February, birds began to return, or at least became more active in our gardens: American robins (actually members of the thrush family), cardinals, juncos, blue jays, downy woodpeckers. They did not like what they found, and were puffing up their feathers for warmth. During the second week of March, the temperatures rose a little above freezing during the day and the snow began to recede. The snowdrops emerged again and the flowers began to open – only to be buried yet again for a few days. I think cedar waxwings must have visited our holly bushes not long ago, as I see that almost all the berries have disappeared. Our local chipmunk also emerged during the few warmer days, in search of provisions to supplement its store.
Even though we’ve had some slightly warmer weather, the ground is still frozen. Melting snow is draining away very slowly, and after a few days of heavy rain pools formed everywhere and froze over at night. Parts of our back lawn have been alternately a lake and an ice field. Seen from an upper window, it looks like an aerial photo of the frozen Arctic, with ice and snow cut through with small streams (in fact, tunnels made in the snow by field mice or other small rodents, revealed when the snow partially melted, then frozen in place). On the east side of our house, the view is very different, white, green, and brown: with the drain line from our basement sump pump frozen, water flows out of a secondary valve next to the foundation and runs into the grass. There’s nothing we can do about this except to hope that the line opens up before long, and the fact that the pump is having to operate means that the ground is beginning to thaw.
In the street, walking has been messy and a little dangerous. I’ve had to wade through several inches of water on the road leading from our cul-de-sac and to watch out for patches of ice, sometimes not easy to see. Still, on my walks I’ve been able to enjoy birdsong coming from all directions. When I went out today, the sky was blue, in sunnier areas the snow had receded to reveal soggy brownish grass, but the temperature was still several degrees below freezing. It’s supposed to rise several degrees above freezing in the next few days, then drop again to freezing or below freezing even in the daytime. It looks as if spring may not arrive this year until April, at least in our little corner of New England.
Images: Snowdrops peeping out of the snow, two days ago. In the second photo, a bird had walked by, leaving tracks.