Sunrise. Here it's reliable sign of spring's approach. On Dundee the sun doesn't really rise in the winter. It comes up, but sunrises, one of the best parts of where I live, don't happen. It's simply a matter of geography. My chalet faces southeast, directly toward Kearsarge and Bartlett Mountains. Most of the year I enjoy beautiful sunrises just east of the peaks, looking towards Maine. Enjoying a cup of coffee on the deck, watching the sun come up, catching the first rays of warmth, is part of the spirit of this place.
In the winter when the sun finally shows its face, my attitude is more "It's about time. Where the heck have you been?!" The sun gets lazy in the winter, staying low in the sky it hides behind the foothills, then Kearsage before finally, lazily with a whimper and little warmth, coming out from behind Bartlett Mountain mid morning. Even then its face stays buried in the trunks and branches of my hardwoods for the majority of the day. For the winter our relationship is fleeting.
Last Sunday, my Birthday no less, the sun said hello from my East for the first time this year.
Now, with rain dancing off the metal roof and the roar of snowmelt churning down the East Branch of the Saco, spring is creeping closer. The woodshed is almost empty. Running water is carving drainages under the snowpack in the yard and the ice rink has finally melted from the driveway. Tomorrow I may not even need four-wheel drive to get out to work. Most telling, I'm fighting the urge to store my skis until next winter and my fly rod is staring at me from the corner.
Spring is my reset button. Work around the house never ends, but in the spring it begins anew. It's refreshing. Firewood may be my favorite task, but by the time March roles around, I've had enough. Arriving home to a cold and empty house, hauling in wood, kindling a fire, stoking it and waiting for the warmth is exciting in November, routine by January, but cumbersome come March. I love my wood stove, but I'm ready to warm my bones by cracking open a beer, sitting on the deck and soaking up the afternoon sun.
Winter projects are out of necessity. Sustainability. Food. Warmth. Comfort. Come spring, I am planning improvements: my garden, an entry-way addition, a first floor renovation, meat birds, bees. Spring breeds excitement. Possibilities seem endless. I want to shovel dirt and move rocks. The chickens are ready for spring as well. A few days running loose over the weekend, and now each day when I open the coop door, they are running to be free from their walls, ready to be scratching up the grass and leaves and gobbling up bugs until sunset.
None of this is to say that winter has been bad. Around here winters are judged by nothing other than the quality of the skiing. Meager snowfall and two huge thaws in January kept conditions late-fall like at best for two-thirds of the season, but cold temperatures and consistent snowfall salvaged things in February. One month alone shouldn't turn a ski season from bad to good, but judging it against what could have been (awful), most in these parts will take it.
I found a happy place on my skis that I haven't had since high school and the combination solo night-time excursions, morning powder runs with close friends, and an epic group first-chair-to last day skiing powder filled glades at Saddleback gave me a seasons worth of best runs all crammed into one month of tired legs and dirty laundry. Eat-sleep-work-ski, get it while its good. For a stretch, it was great.
Now we're in transition. The other day I was running the wood chipper in a t-shirt, but now there's more snow showers in the forecast. We'll seesaw between winter and spring for another month with neither 70 degree days or 2-foot snow dumps out of the question, but I'm putting my snow-dancing shoes away early this year. I'm ready for spring.