Irresistable Spring

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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange has chest-high snowbanks in his yard, but he’s surrounded by signs of spring.

(LANGE) The change from deep winter to the last of winter has been almost too gradual to notice, but it’s happened. When the dog shakes her tags to get me up, it’s no longer agonizing to face the below- freezing chill of the bedroom. All winter she’s been an invisible metallic jingle on the dark floor. Now I can see her looking up impatiently: “Let’s go! Paper’s here.”

There are chest-high snowbanks in the dooryard. The driveway hill is a sheet of ice. But long as winter seems, I cherish its predictability and familiarity. It’s comforting to see next year’s woodpile capped with a foot of snow, and deer tracks wandering everywhere through the woods.

Then I get an e-mail from my friend Larry in northern Canada. His house stands at 68 degrees north on a bluff with a beautiful view of part of the fabled Northwest Passage. “Sixty below Celsius in Kugluktuk the other day,” he says. “Light snow, occasional ice fog. Visibility 8 kilometers, wind NE about 5. This weekend is the big Senior Hockey Tournament. The lacrosse team is already practicing in the school gym.”

But the big news, Larry says, is the sun. After disappearing for weeks at the turn of the year, it now rises in Kugluktuk at 8:27 and sets at 5:21 – comparing favorably with our current 6:20 rising and 6:00 setting. In two weeks, he’ll catch up with us and by midsummer, when we’re enjoying short nights, his sun won’t set at all.

Here in New England, perched halfway between Kugluktuk and Key West, we can feel spring coming. The hillsides of soft maple are turning red. From the back bedroom, I can see small beeches that still have last year’s copper leaves. One afternoon soon the old leaves will lie in a circle around the tree, and the new ones will bud.

The patches of afternoon sun in the livingroom have migrated down the north wall and are halfway across the floor. The brook is opening up. My neighbor has his buckets hung. On Saturday, if I see steam rising from his sugarhouse, I’ll take two bottles of beer and go see him.

The deer in the back yard are getting used to us in the kitchen only a few yards away. They come in the morning and again just before the five o’clock news. There were eight yesterday. I don’t know how they know we’re harmless, but we love to see them.

Late at night, stepping into the dooryard to check the stars, I hear the ravenlike bark of a red fox looking for romance. My skis and snow- shoes need to be put away. Time to sand and varnish the canoe paddles. And, oh yes, tax forms, too, calling for attention; and a pile of brush to burn – soon as I can find it.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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