Spring


That’s the sound my shoes made as they hit the few and far between bare spots on the ground when I went out yesterday. I personally think squish is such a lovely onomatopoeia-ic type of word, especially when it is in reference to the sound my shoes make in the mud when the snow is melting. It has so much meaning behind it, the biggest and best one being that Spring is indeed springing, in it’s own squishy way. It’s about time too…I’ve had it with the snow and cold (surprised? Of course you’re not). It started far too early as it was, and it almost seems poised to stay late but I’m trying to keep an optimistic outlook. After all, my shoes did go squish.

There are other signs that Spring is finally in the air. The days are becoming longer and warmer, which means the sap is running…maple sugar season is upon us! And it’s a bit early, which is also good. A couple of days ago, son #2 saw a flock of geeks flying overhead…geeks, by the way, is Séamusese for geese. In other words, the Canadian Geese are on the wing back to northern shores. Soon enough, the littles will come running to tell me that the geeks are flying over the house again, as they hear the distinctive honks for the umpteenth time in an hour.

Other tell tale signs have yet to emerge; there is still far too much snow for any kind of flower to pop up. I’m really hoping by the beginning of April, but I suppose we’ll see…Winter might just have one more good blow in her. It’s also still too early for the Spring Peepers to begin their evening serenades. That is a sound I always look forward to.

But despite those things that have yet to emerge, adding their own bit of flavour to the overall stew of Springness, my favourite…at least for now…is the squishiness. The sound, smell, and sight of it all brings me more joy than you could possibly know. Until the kids bring all that squishiness into my kitchen and leave it all over my floor, prompting me to mop it ten times in a day, of course.

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More about spring…and a bit more by William Wordsworth. Yes, I do have a one track mind these days. For the most part…

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:–
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

I don’t think that it’s hard to know what’s on my mind right now..and since D.H. Lawrence says it far better than I, I’ll let him do just that:

I wish it were spring in the world.

Let it be spring!
Come, bubbling, surging tide of sap!
Come, rush of creation!
Come, life! surge through this mass of mortification!
Come, sweep away these exquisite, ghastly first-flowers,
which are rather last-flowers!
Come, thaw down their cool portentousness, dissolve them:
snowdrops, straight, death-veined exhalations of white and purple crocuses,
flowers of the penumbra, issue of corruption, nourished in mortification,
jets of exquisite finality;
Come, spring, make havoc of them!

I trample on the snowdrops, it gives me pleasure to tread down the jonquils,
to destroy the chill Lent lilies;
for I am sick of them, their faint-bloodedness,
slow-blooded, icy-fleshed, portentous.

I want the fine, kindling wine-sap of spring,
gold, and of inconceivably fine, quintessential brightness,
rare almost as beams, yet overwhelmingly potent,
strong like the greatest force of world-balancing.

This is the same that picks up the harvest of wheat
and rocks it, tons of grain, on the ripening wind;
the same that dangles the globe-shaped pleiads of fruit
temptingly in mid-air, between a playful thumb and finger;
oh, and suddenly, from out of nowhere, whirls the pear-bloom,
upon us, and apple- and almond- and apricot- and quince-blossom,
storms and cumulus clouds of all imaginable blossom
about our bewildered faces,
though we do not worship.

I wish it were spring
cunningly blowing on the fallen sparks, odds and ends of the old, scattered fire,
and kindling shapely little conflagrations
curious long-legged foals, and wide-eared calves, and naked sparrow-bubs.

I wish that spring
would start the thundering traffic of feet
new feet on the earth, beating with impatience.

I wish it were spring, thundering
delicate, tender spring.
I wish these brittle, frost-lovely flowers of passionate, mysterious corruption
were not yet to come still more from the still-flickering discontent.

Oh, in the spring, the bluebell bows him down for very exuberance,
exulting with secret warm excess,
bowed down with his inner magnificence!

Oh, yes, the gush of spring is strong enough
to toss the globe of earth like a ball on a water-jet
dancing sportfully;
as you see a tiny celluloid ball tossing on a squirt of water
for men to shoot at, penny-a-time, in a booth at a fair.

The gush of spring is strong enough
to play with the globe of earth like a ball on a fountain;
At the same time it opens the tiny hands of the hazel
with such infinite patience.
The power of the rising, golden, all-creative sap could take the earth
and heave it off among the stars, into the invisible;
the same sets the throstle at sunset on a bough
singing against the blackbird;
comes out in the hesitating tremor of the primrose,
and betrays its candour in the round white strawberry flower,
is dignified in the foxglove, like a Red-Indian brave.

Ah come, come quickly, spring!
come and lift us towards our culmination, we myriads;
we who have never flowered, like patient cactuses.
Come and lift us to our end, to blossom, bring us to our summer
we who are winter-weary in the winter of the of the world.
Come making the chaffinch nests hollow and cosy,
come and soften the willow buds till they are puffed and furred,
then blow them over with gold.
Coma and cajole the gawky colt’s-foot flowers.

Come quickly, and vindicate us.
against too much death.
Come quickly, and stir the rotten globe of the world from within,
burst it with germination, with world anew.
Come now, to us, your adherents, who cannot flower from the ice.
All the world gleams with the lilies of death the Unconquerable,
but come, give us our turn.
Enough of the virgins and lilies, of passionate, suffocating perfume of corruption,
no more narcissus perfume, lily harlots, the blades of sensation
piercing the flesh to blossom of death.
Have done, have done with this shuddering, delicious business
of thrilling ruin in the flesh, of pungent passion, of rare, death-edged ecstasy.
Give us our turn, give us a chance, let our hour strike,
O soon, soon!
Let the darkness turn violet with rich dawn.
Let the darkness be warmed, warmed through to a ruddy violet,
incipient purpling towards summer in the world of the heart of man.

Are the violets already here!
Show me! I tremble so much to hear it, that even now
on the threshold of spring, I fear I shall die.
Show me the violets that are out.

Oh, if it be true, and the living darkness of the blood of man is purpling with violets,
if the violets are coming out from under the rack of men, winter-rotten and fallen,
we shall have spring.
Pray not to die on this Pisgah blossoming with violets.
Pray to live through.
If you catch a whiff of violets from the darkness of the shadow of man
it will be spring in the world,
it will be spring in the world of the living;
wonderment organising itself, heralding itself with the violets,
stirring of new seasons.

Ah, do not let me die on the brink of such anticipation!
Worse, let me not deceive myself.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

~Emily Dickinson

This is kind of an odd time of year for me. We’re quite rapidly approaching the end of Summer, much to my dismay, for that only means that it will soon be Winter and 20˚ below zero yet again. But before we get to the sub-arctic temperatures of Winter, we must first pass through Autumn which is known for it’s warmer days and chilly nights; it’s dazzling leaves and the smell of wood burning in the fireplace. The geese are on the wing, desiring to get to warmer climates before the snow begins to fly, making quite a racket as they honk their way through the skies in that characteristic “V” shape. And while it’s not freezing cold, it’s cool enough that most days I can finally wear my cool red hat again. That in of itself is cause for celebration. Next to Spring, Autumn is my most favourite season. I know…seems odd, doesn’t it? The woman who whines and complains about the cold until the Summer sun finally sends forth it’s warmth and light, is actually joyfully anticipating Autumn. Maybe the planets are out of alignment or maybe I ate something weird and it’s done something to my head. Or maybe, just maybe, I don’t really hate the cold as much as I seem to go on and on about…..nah, that can’t be it. Must be something I ate. But I do, although it does seem odd in so many ways. Afterall, Autumn does seem to be the direct antithesis of Spring. How can I find joy in something that is seemingly so contradictory to other things I find joy in?

Spring is the season of new life. As the warm breezes finally make their way up to the frozen tundra of the North Country, they awaken those things that have long been dormant during the cold and snow. The trees yawningly stretch their long limbs up toward the sun as their green tresses begin to reemerge. The flowers lazily poke their colourful heads out of the earth, making sure it’s safe to come out again. And even the animals are busy tending to the little replicas of themselves that have decided to finally make an appearance and see what all the hubbub is about. You really can even smell the newness of life. Spring is truly an awesome time.

Autumn, on the other hand, is about as far from new life as one can get. Things are fading in the Autumn. All that new life that emerged a mere six months ago is now in the process of either perishing or preparing for a long, cold slumber…hardly cause for joy and happiness I suppose. But it’s the way they do it…sure, everything is in the process of either expiring entirely, or at least making it seem like they are. But this expiration is done with absolute gusto, almost as if nature is trying to make sure that it’s done right, just in case this is the last time it’s able to. Look at the trees…inwardly they must know that it’s only a matter of time before the icy wind subsides, allowing them to awaken yet again as they always have. But even if this thought has occurred to them, they still go into their dormant state with a bang…their leaves turn from a bright green to blazing reds, oranges and yellows, making the woods in which they live light up with brilliancy as the sun shines down upon them. And then, after we have been enchanted by the abundance of magnificent colour, the leaves flutter to the ground making a blanket of crunchiness that is great fun to run and, when raked into huge piles, jump into. The crisp coolness of the air makes you walk a little quicker and gives everything the wonderous odour of frost…mingle that with the tangy smell of burning leaves and wood, and that is what Autumn smells like. Truly glorious!

Then there are the animals. You have those that amble about, trying to get their fill of the leftover berries, mushrooms, or whatever else they can find to fill their tummies enough to keep them asleep through their long hibernation. Others scurry about, looking for acorns and beechnuts to stow away in their tree homes to keep them through the ice and coldness of the winter months. The latter tend to be very comical in their expeditions, as they chatter and screech at anything that comes close enough to be thought of as a threat to their precious stash. And then there are those that prefer to leave over the prospect of the snow and frigid temperatures, flying off to more temperate regions. It always brings somewhat of a forlorn feeling to hear them honking in the distance, but at least there is the consolation that they will be back soon enough.

But there is one other reason to love Autumn. One that is not quite as ostentatious as the others, but much more subtle and underlying. You see, as those things that were living, die, they make way for rebirth. For you cannot have rebirth without first, death. You cannot have the new without first having the old. In other words, you cannot have Spring without first having Autumn. The old and dying of Autumn are making way for the new life of Spring. You cannot have one without the other, and for that reason I have such a love for Autumn. Without it, I could never enjoy the pleasures of the Spring. Isn’t it interesting how nature took two such contradictory things, and forever bound them together so neatly? Interesting indeed…wonderfully so.

Spring is my favorite time of year. It’s warm, but not too warm, and everything that grows is putting forth new life in their own way…the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, and the mares up the road from us on the farm have the sweetest little colts now! Everything seems to be so fresh and new and just wonderful. You can’t help but be happy in the Spring….well, I can’t anyway.

Spring is also the time for “first-of-the-year”‘s…the first time it rains and it’s warm enough to kick of your shoes and run around in it (I did this one last week…yes, it was glorious, and yes, Mr Izz thought I was insane. Who cares…I had a blast and came in laughing hysterically and totally soaked. It was worth it, despite the looks I received), the first time you get to wear sandals (did that one last week too!!), the first time the black flies get you behind the ears…that one isn’t too much fun, but for the sake of consistency, it must be noted.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and was also a “first-of-the-year” day. Yesterday, we were able to enjoy the first SEVERAGUS of the year (or, for those of you that don’t live at Casa Izz and don’t know the lingo, severagus is also known as asparagus….severagus is a Torti-ism…a word that Victoria, also known as “Torti”, made up since she can’t say asparagus. I know…things here can be rather complicated for those not in the know). There is absolutely nothing like freshly picked asparagus. Here in the North Country, there are little roadside stands all over the place…with the very large population of Amish here, you can get some pretty great deals on fresh produce all summer. Two of the boys were at my mother in law’s house yesterday (they had spent the night because she wanted to take them shopping to buy new sneakers….but that’s another story). So, Mr Izz and I decided to run over and pick them up. On the way we saw the asparagus stand, but didn’t end up stopping until we drove past on the way home. It was a fabulous price, and it had been just picked that morning. Way better than the withered, wrinkled, greenish-brown asparagus shaped things you find at your local grocery store. How they can sell that nasty stuff and not have a conscience problem, I have no idea. It’s truly vile looking, and I’m sure tastes even worse than it looks. But, getting back to my story here, the stuff we bought looked simply delicious…small, pencil sized shoots, nice green color, and anything but withered and wrinkled. We bought a couple of pounds, and I steamed them for dinner (yeah, I did have to cook for Mother’s Day….). I put them into a big serving bowl, drizzled them with butter…..yum! They were heavenly…if asparagus isn’t served in heaven, it should be, by the way, but I’m pretty sure it must be…they were done just perfectly; not too mushy or too firm. Just right. I could eat it all day. Some of the kids weren’t too fond of them (more for ME!), but when I told them that if they ate it, it would make their pee green, they made a bee-line to the bowl and filled their plates up. Kids are so easy to manipulate. I’m sure that they were later comparing notes on the color of their urine. Victoria, on the other hand, was very easy because she loved it from the very first bite. She asked for at least 3 helpings, and would have had more if it hadn’t been all gone.

So, that was my “first of the year” for this week. Severagus. It was well worth the wait over the winter to have those first succulent bites. Yum! Even if it does turn my pee green.

It seems that Winter refuses to let go of it’s stronghold upon the North Country. Here we are, in the middle of what should be Springtime, only to find ourselves surrounded by snow and cold. Late yesterday into early today, a good old Nor’easter blew up the coast, leaving us with about 4 inches of snow, ice and lots of wind. Those of us who reside in the area are ready for Spring in a big way, always hoping it’s right around the corner. And yet our hopes seem to be quickly dashed the moment another storm blows in, leaving behind yet another cold, snowy mess that needs to be shoveled off the walkways. Good thing I have lots of sons.

This snowy landscape was what greeted us at Casa Izz this morning, as it has for the past several mornings. Even the Izzlets are getting rather tired of it all…it seems that one can indeed make and throw too many snowballs (who would have thought!). The only difference today was that the storm was bad enough to cancel school for Mr Izz, much to his joy since it extended his Spring break by a day.

At one point, as we were cleaning up after breakfast, Mr Izz was looking out the window, shaking his head in disbelief. As he scowled upon the scene, Séamus came up to him and asked to be picked up.

“Do you see the snow, Séamus?” Mr Izz asked.
“Yes, lots of snow!” Séamus exclaimed.
“Where did it all come from?” was the next question.

Séamus didn’t answer immediately, which would be more in line with his two-ishness. He actually took the time to think…very much out of character indeed. Then he smiled, looked out of the window and up into the sky, and simply stated:

“From the stars!!”

Such a thoughtful answer from such a little boy…an answer that was laden with such an innocent wisdom that only a two year old can give. To him, it made perfect sense that the wonderful whiteness he saw before him outside the window was put there by the stars. And honestly, even for those of us that haven’t been two in quite some time, and hardly possess even the remnants of two-ishness that Séamus seems to have in abundance, it makes it all a little more bearable thinking that just maybe it was.

The weather here is finally improving (I’ve been dancing around because of it all week), which of course can’t help but put me in good spirits. Today the forecast is calling for thunderstorms, and I couldn’t be happier. Rain is awesome as it is, but rain with thunder and lightning is even better. But anyway…

Izz's Sugar Snow

A couple of mornings ago, I awoke to snow (as shown above)…but not just any snow, as it clung to the branches of the trees making the world a glistening white wonderland…for a little while anyway. It was a “sugar snow”. For anyone who may not be familiar with that term, the “sugar” part of it has nothing to do with the color, the texture, or the taste of the snow. It really is just SNOW in the end. It has to do with the time of year, which is Maple Sugaring time. As I’ve stated (probably more times that I’ve needed to), the days are getting longer as well as warmer (more dancing around…sorry about that), which promotes the sap to run in the trees. Here in the North Country (as well as in some other places fairly close by), we are particularly interested in the sap from the Sugar Maple, for when that sap is extracted from the tree, and then boiled down for a few hours, you come up with some of the most heavenly stuff in the world: Maple Syrup. Anyone who has ever had some of the real stuff usually can’t tolerate the fake ick that they try to pass off as the real stuff in your neighborhood box mart. Pure maple syrup is simply divine, and goes well with more than just your average, everyday pancakes. I use it for braising vegetables (most notably carrots), for topping ice cream, for some breads, and lots of other things.

Maple Sugaring

So why am I talking about this? I don’t know really…I suppose it was just one of those things I had kind of forgotten about while I was living away from here for so many years. It’s amazing how much you forget about a place that you lived practically your whole life in, and yet how quickly it all comes back after you return. I’d been seeing all of those little buckets hanging on the trees, and I remembered the spring that I did the same thing. How truly satisfying it was to collect the sap day after day, and then after the sap was done running, to take it all and boil it for hours until you have the right consistency. That was the best maple syrup I’d ever had, and I think it has a lot to do with all of the work I put into making it. As I see those buckets, I remember good times from my childhood that were so long forgotten. Things that I would love to share with my own children, and have them experience as well.

Nostalgia…that’s why I’m writing about this. I’m feeling nostalgic and that’s a good thing.

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