29 March 2001
Springtime has taken several giant steps backwards over the last couple of nights. In fact, it has become downright surly. On Thursday (22 March), I immersed myself in the calm before the storm, hoping that this would be the night that spring "pops". At sunset the spruce swayed, but gently, not like an upright bowling pin in a dizzy spin. The evening had promise, but would I experience it?
The previous two days had offered a glimpse of things to come….."sometime in July", the biologist said sarcastically. Temperatures were in the 40's and it seemed, albeit briefly, that our arctic winter was history. Wildlife reacted. For the first time this year, I watched as deer mice and meadow voles made reluctant, then determined dashes across the gravel. Snowshoe hares were busy and the fox were vocal. Moose sauntered down open roads and saw-whets sang near the North Shore. Springtime had arrived, but as an accidental tourist. One step forward, one step backward.
On the night when spring went in the wrong direction, I sat. A mile to the north, a male boreal sang two bouts and then was quiet. The first song in my 2001 night. I hurried towards him, positioned my chair on the gravel, and waited. I felt obligated to let him know that "I can sit here all night..... I used to ice fish." Less than five minutes later, the cold front arrived. The temperature plummeted and the biting wind sent tears down my cheeks. It was brutal. It also seemed fitting. Owls will not come easy this year.
Some four nights later (26 March), the pattern of braggart weather was broken. At midnight, the winds calmed and the bank of clouds moved to someone else's sky. The temperature dropped from 24 to 7 degrees in 30 minutes. Say what I do about cloud cover; but it serves as an additional layer of fleece in the North Woods night.
Winter comes and spring sits on the bench waiting to be called into the game. One senses that it will burst when the substitution is made.
© W.H. Lane