Around the bend: Warily shifting into spring mode

Back in December, when the weather failed to live up to standard expectations for a Vermont winter — that is, cold, dark, snowy and generally miserable — no one panicked. “There’s still a lot of winter left,” everyone said, in a tone of optimism or, at least in my case, dread for what the next three months might hold.
And when January similarly broke tradition by depriving us of the usual treacherous weather and its associated crankiness, that was OK too, because we still had February and March to look forward to/endure.
In mid-February, a rumor went around that we’d better get ready for the end of the month. Severe winter weather, the armchair meteorologists cried, was practically guaranteed. The conviction was based purely on wishful thinking among outdoor enthusiasts and a general feeling of inescapable doom among the rest of us.
So here we are in March with sunny skies and bare roads. An uncomfortable question hangs unspoken on the warm, spring-like breeze: Is winter over?
The safe answer, shouted by anyone who has lived in Vermont more than a year, is “Hell, no!” But come on: Given that spring officially starts in two weeks and we have yet to see a single newsworthy snow event all year, can’t we assume that the current weather pattern is not the end of an unusually mild winter but rather the start of an early spring? Or is this the calm before the snowstorm-to-end-all-snowstorms?
Several times this winter, weather forecasters, desperate for attention, promised us a whopper of a snowstorm (“whopper” this year meaning anything that covers the grass).
And each time, the swirling radar mass pushing toward the Northeast on the National Weather Service map either circumvented the Champlain Valley or vanished entirely. We woke the next morning to find, at most, the same old “dusting to an inch.” Children around the county, who’d gone to bed sure they had a snow day in the bag, howled in unison at the injustice.
With each storm that misses us, it seems more likely that spring will arrive peacefully, and soon. That notion can go to a person’s head. I, for instance, shaved my legs.
This is not an activity I enter into lightly, what with a pack of razor cartridges these days costing only slightly less than a handful of cut diamonds. In the winter I typically shave only when the friction of my leg hair against my tights threatens to start a fire, but when the temps went into the 50s the other day, I got a little crazy. I sensed the imminent arrival of shorts weather.
Other people may not be so reckless as to pick up their Schicks just yet, but they’re thinking along the same lines: Is it time to put away the snow shovel and the long underwear? Can I dust off the Weber grill, dig out the garden tools and get the comforter dry-cleaned?
No one wants to tempt Mother Nature by voicing such thoughts. Saying “It’s only March but I think it’s safe to take off the snow tires” is as foolhardy as saying to a homicidal maniac, “What voices? I don’t hear any voices. Must be in your head.”
Most people know what happens when you suggest that the threat of severe weather is behind us, just as they know what happens when you brag about going two full years without a head cold. (Yes, that was me. And yes, I got sick the following week.) Hubris bites.
Still, I’m betting this weekend at least some Addison County residents will take the plastic off their windows and park the snow blower in the back of the garage. Others, of course, will keep their roof rakes within arm’s reach. We’ll find out soon enough who made the right call.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we did end up with record-setting snowfalls between now and Easter — or even Memorial Day, given the weird weather this year. And in some ways, I look forward to it, if only because I wouldn’t feel right about cruising through a Vermont winter without a single weather-related nervous breakdown.
Still, given the choice, I’d rather see this week’s lovely weather stick around for good. I’d hate to think I shaved my legs in vain. 

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