Faith in Vermont: On March and the In-Between
Even if you love winter, March can feel like a waiting room: You sit, in between where you’ve been and where you’re going, trying to focus your eyes on a tabloid (if you’re lucky) or one of those dull preventive health magazines filled with recipes and uplifting stories about B-list celebrities. Either way, you can’t focus on the magazine because every time the door opens you look up expectantly, wondering if it’s finally time.
March can feel beside the point, in-between.
The other day, I stopped our minivan at the bottom of our driveway in order to put a letter in the mailbox. As I made my way carefully across the sheet of solid ice standing between the U.S. Postal Service and me, I noticed something different. That noise…was that – birdsong? I slid back over to the minivan and opened all the windows, sending a blast of single-degree air into my daughters’ faces.
“Girls, listen!” I shouted. “Hear that? Those are birds!”
Days later, my daughter came home from preschool with a “birdfeeder:” a rice cake slathered in peanut butter and studded with birdseed. She wanted to hang it on our birdhouse, but declined my suggestion that she do the honors herself. As she watched, I pulled on my coat, hat, gloves, and boots and crashed through the 18 inches of snow in our backyard to fasten the feeder to the birdhouse base, where it hung, untouched, for almost two weeks.
The next day, I stopped in at Otter Creek Bakery to stock up on treats. I hadn’t been by in a couple of weeks, and the woman behind the counter was excited to show me the latest shape of the chocolate butter cookies: Volkswagen Beetles. In order to find four VW cookies, she sorted through the other butter cookies on the plate, which were shaped like mittens. “Winter’s over,” she muttered. I looked out the window at the grey sky and snow-covered ground, and thought about the forecast for more snow the next day, but said nothing.
We put on rubber boots – not our snow boots, for the first time in many months – and went to the Duclos & Thompson Farm’s open barn to coo over that harbinger of spring: newborn lambs! We emerged from the barn into falling snow, which continued to fall for the remainder of the afternoon.
It is now possible to see a house with a Christmas wreath still hanging on the front door, right next to a house with a wreath of spring flowers decorating its entrance. I consigned our own Christmas wreath to the garbage on March 1; after three months, it looked tired.
The snow seems tired, too: It sags over the edge of the roof and off of the deck, it sits along the roadside turning black from sand and exhaust fumes. Its layers are a record of the various storms, a cross-section of Winter 2015.
It’s hard to imagine our landscape without snow. Where can it all possibly go? This year, the answer seems to be: through our roof. The other day, while home with a sick child, I noticed a small but growing pool of water on the kitchen floor. The drips were coming from the ceiling, which doubles as the master bathroom floor. I was unsure whether this was caused by faulty plumbing or because the temperature had risen above freezing for the first time in almost two months. Apparently it was the latter, because the leak stopped shortly after my father spent the greater part of an hour shoveling snow and chipping ice off our porch roof. Nearly four years in this house, and we’re about to purchase our first snow rake.
We’re still skiing, snowshoeing, and skating. The skiing will likely continue for another month. But last week, my daughters and I began to remember our favorite warm-weather activities. Remember eating outside at A&W? Remember berry picking? Remember swimming at the lake? Remember building fairy houses in the yard?
Also, I am beginning to remember yard chores.
During our daughters’ February vacation, my husband’s visiting parents took our family up to Montreal for two nights. I’ll leave you to judge the logic of heading north in February, but it was a wonderful trip. The point was to visit the Biodome, and to see the indoor butterfly exhibit at the Botanic Gardens.
We did both things, and the girls enjoyed them. But if you ask them about their favorite part of the trip, they won’t mention either the Biodome or the Botanic Gardens. Instead, they will tell you about what they did in between the things that were the point. Like watching “The Smurfs” and “The Simpsons” – dubbed in French – on the hotel TV. The two-story-tall fountain in a mall courtyard. And the biggest highlight of all: the numerous escalators and one glass elevator that they rode during our hike through some of Montreal’s famed subterranean passageways. We were traversing those passageways in order to get from our hotel to an outdoor carnival, because my father-in-law wanted to take his granddaughters on the Ferris wheel. When we arrived, the Ferris wheel was closed due to a snowstorm. The disappointment barely registered with my girls; they wanted only to ride all the escalators on the walk back.
One of the best things about children is that they remind us of the joy to be found in the in-between.
Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.