Where Is Spring?

Where Is Spring

An indomitable groundhog scurries across my lawn, signaling the start of Spring. A hairy woodpecker drills at sunrise from the dead branches of a tall locust tree and garners my attention, signaling the start of Spring. Pyramidal piles of pea like deer droppings accumulate by my patio, signaling the start of Spring.

But, ‘where is Spring’?

The calendar confirmed it days ago. The incessant honking of returning geese announced it from the heavens, and well tanned ‘snowbirds’, returning home from sea, sand and sun, expressed their disappointment and dismay at finding lingering snow showers. Even weather reporters  proclaimed it, albeit reluctantly.

But, ‘where is Spring’? 

Baseball players pass hours oiling their gloves and tarring their bats, hoping against hope that fields will be green and  plush for Opening Day.  Pot holes turn roads into obstacle courses, challenging drivers at every turn. Even the earliest flower, the crocus, is nowhere to be seen.  The supply of hand warmers is depleted. The flannel sheets are worn thin. The damp air, low clouds, and dire forecast surely is winter’s last ditch effort to overstay its worn out welcome.

But, ‘where is Spring’?

Mother Nature was kind to western New Yorkers this winter, giving us hope that Spring would be early. However, the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ seems to be out, dashing our spirit.  Easter Sunday is but days away. Newspapers are announcing the opening dates of local golf courses. School kids are starting their ‘Spring Break’.  And while my weather app just flashed this warning, ‘ snow flurries starting soon’, I am compelled to ask…

‘Where the Hell is Spring?’

srbottch.com

Today, I Built a Snow Fort

Winter Street

Living in western New York requires a hearty soul when it comes to weathering the weather. Every winter, Mother Nature throws her best punch at us. After lying mostly dormant this winter, she reminded us of her mood swings with a pummeling of snow that stopped drivers, closed roads and shut down businesses.  And some of us thought Spring was on the way.  Ha!

How do people along the Niagara Frontier handle Mother Nature with her long, dark winter nights, and mornings crisp enough to snap the nose off your face if you wiggled it?  Only one way, we take what She’s blown at us and make it our playground.

We tug on long johns, wrap ourselves in downy coats, then race out-of-door to play, just as we did when some of us still could race.

Against cheek numbing winds, we schuss down snow-packed mountains on narrow flat boards. We clamp on snowshoes and break new trails in deep silent stands of nearby woods.

Snowshoes

Dull skates and old sleds are rescued from dusty web covered garage lofts or backyard sheds. Blades and runners are honed and waxed to make perfect for gliding over new ice or flying down slick hills on our bellies.

The brilliant sunshine on a wintry day makes a frigid five degrees feel like a tepid ten. We are survivors!

Me, I call on a time when kids were always outside, playing games that strengthened our bodies and stretched our imaginations. Today, I built a fort in my backyard blanket of cold, cotton-like snow, a dugout snow fort.

My fort today was not unlike one I built back then, simple but strong. A mini fortress, big enough for a cadre of ruffians and a cache of snowballs, just in case real ruffians showed up, as they often did. And amid the screams and yells, and maybe a curse, was the splatting thud of snowballs finding arms and legs and an occasional noggin’.

Those snow castles gave us a place to escape, a place so cold that only the energy of our youthful exhuberance kept us warm, as a pint size ‘band of brothers’ huddled together, making plans for our next adventure.

And what better place to have that adventure than on a corner snow ‘mountain’, the high, hard packed hill of shoveled or plowed snow, perfect for a game of ‘King of the Hill’.

Winter is a great time to test our endurance, to demonstrate our vim, vigor and vitality. Come Spring, we will scratch a notch in our snowpant suspenders as a symbol of success against the elements. We shall prevail!

Today, I built a snow fort. And tonight, under the cold, star lit sky, I’ll climb a corner snow ‘mountain’ and declare myself, King of the Hill!

srbottch.com

Dedicated to the kid in every adult, builders of snow forts, and those who challenge themselves in the great outdoors.

Winter, In Name Only…

“Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen”
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)

snow 4
february 3, 2015

“Where is Winter?”  The calendar tells me we are in its grip, but the thermometer says, not so. 2015 brought thigh high snows, yet 2016 has seen nary a flake. “Where is Winter?”

No Snow
february 3, 2016

Our daffodils, normally unseen until April, are breaking ground, and like a periscope, daring to peek at a most unusual sight…grass, in February.  “Where is Winter?”

I almost expect to see worms wiggling out of my way as I leave prints in the soft underfooting of my yard, a ground seemingly unfrozen. But they know better, this is just a tease before arctic air dares to return for an end of season blast, the way firework finales finish a show.  And my orange snowblower looks content to be idle, gathering dust instead of devouring snow. “Where is Winter?”

Today, I saw a flock of Canada geese heading north. Were they locals who call this home, or the real birds that migrate when weather signals them to go?  Oh, let it be the latter. I do admire watching their hard work, these harbingers of the changing seasons. I called to them, “Where is Winter, eh?”, but they were far gone.

I am not a ‘winter person’. Neither the snow nor the cold make my life comfortable. I grumble about it. And just when I’m ready to say, ‘enough with this nonsense, Mother Nature senses my frustration and begins the change to the most beautiful stretch of weather from April thru November. It’s the reward for my patience with her.

But for now, the strange calmness that has enveloped us along the Niagara frontier reminds me of the sailors on the listing Pequod, waiting and waiting for the wind. In our case, the winter wind. I do not miss the winter, wherever it is.

I believe I am not alone…am I?

Buckland in Winter
Buckland Farm in Brighton, NY

srbottch

http://srbottch.com

to my Rochester Instagram followers, whether you are winter fans, or not

Welcome Fall…

Front Porch

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.
So, I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, American poet

What wonderful words to welcome the new Fall season. Today, I did just that, welcomed it, in all its glory; clear skies, early morning dew and a crispness in the air that snaps your lungs to attention.

Earlier this week, our house prepared for the change, as well. The air conditioner was retired, window screens removed, the furnace inspected, and most importantly, the oven reported for duty.

Welcome, Fall!

The much appreciated and long-awaited aromas of baked goods returned with scents of apples, cranberries and pumpkins for cakes, breads and muffins. Spices aroused my sensory receptors like perfume on a delicate nape. My salivary glands stirred from their summer sleep, anticipating the coming feasts. Surely, a measure of discipline will be required to maintain my belt size.

Maples and oaks will treat us to their final burst of fiery red, bright yellow and sparkling orange before laying bare their limbs to the certainty of winter. Blankets of grass will succumb to frosts and begin their seasonal dormancy, a relief to my tired lawnmower.

Welcome, Fall!

Hiking trails will become colorful murals and deer will be forewarned of intruders in their woods by the crunching of dried leaves underfoot.

Local farms will welcome us into their orchards for apple picking and cider tasting. We’ll sample the delicious fruit as we pick from trees, filling our bags with the sweet and tart varieties, intent on eating our daily quota to ‘keep the doctor away’.

Small town farmers markets become destinations for fun excursions. Families will mix and greet amid just picked greens, ripe tomatoes, a plethora of squashes and apples, fresh-baked pies and fall plants, while everyone’s favorite, the pumpkins with their long, twisty stems, wait to be carved and decorated with scary Halloween faces.

Fall, the season to lay gardens to rest and prepare their beds for the harsh winter. And, as Hawthorne opined, we will enjoy the Autumn sunshine with walks in the woods, shopping at outdoor art festivals, or raking leaves. We will breathe the crisp air and succumb to the beauty of the season…at least until kickoff, because, alas, Fall is football season.

Yes, welcome, Fall!

Pumpkins

(photos by Dick Moss)

Blueberries, Strawberries and The End of Summer


Oh, my, have you seen the calendar? The End of Summer is in sight.  Just a few more weeks of long days, brilliant sunshine and warm nights, then Fall ushers in with shorter days, fading sunlight, cooler nights and its lexicon of seasonal ‘F’ words; football, foliage and frost.

The End of Summer also means the end of one of my decadent pleasures, fresh fruit from local farms, especially
sweet, succulent strawberries and big, bold blueberries.  Sliced or whole, drop a handful of these tasty morsels on a bowl of your favorite breakfast cereal (Cheerios, for me) and it’s paradise for your palate.  Your lips will love you and your taste buds will tingle.  How depressing, knowing the ballet in my mouth is about to ‘go dark’ until next year.  End of Summer, please linger longer.

The sliced banana is a wonderful addition to my cereal concoction, and according to Wikipedia (the Internet), botanically it’s a berry.  By adding a sprinkle of crushed walnuts, my bowl overflows with a cornucopia of colors and textures with the patriotic reds, whites and blues of these three fruits.  But, thanks to the End of Summer’s culpable coalition with the calendar, ‘this too shall pass’, at least for the strawberries and blueberries, but not the banana.

What is it with the surviving banana?  The banana seems to escape the same demise of the red and blue berries.  The banana is always available and the price doesn’t fluctuate.  An ‘expert’ proffered that bananas are a fast growing tree so the supply is plentiful and constant.  Bananas are a healthy fruit, too, they just don’t measure up on the juicy and sweet scale, as do the others.

I’ve given up picking my own, but every season I recall the times my dad took my sister and me into the mosquito infested brush where wild blueberries thrived. We ate more than we bucketed, but had plenty for a pie, or two.  My wife and I often took our kids strawberry picking in the hot sun of local fields where we competed with bees for the biggest berries we could find. What lasting memories these ‘pickin’ times made.

At this moment, the bountiful strawberries and blueberries are disappearing from grocers’ shelves and I find it fruitless to complain.  After all, it is a natural change, as the seasons dictate the bounty of the produce we enjoy.  Besides, the End of Summer will reward our patience with the start of the apple season.  And a good apple will push the strawberries and blueberries to the farthest corner of my mind.

For now, I’ll turn to the iron filled shriveled raisin and its lookalike cousin, the craisin, for my cereal topping. And I must make time to travel south into New York’s wine country along the Finger Lakes to enjoy a unique local treat, grape pie.

End of Summer, after all is said and done, you and Mother Nature are treating us quite nicely.

‘Sometimes, I Like Summer Better…’

“Sometimes I wonder whether I like summer better, or winter better. Usually it is when it is NOT that season, that I like it most.” (Darcy)

-3

The town clock flashed a negative 3 bone chilling Farenheit degrees, as I stood numb at my school crossing post in January. Another western New York winter arrived with a vengeance. I wiggled my toes in desperation, confirming I still had them, and thinking, “I can’t wait for Summer”!

February found me chopping icicles off my house gutters, champion size icicles, easily 10 pounds, wishing they were large mouth bass. An avalanche of snow slid off the roof, smacking me squarely in the face while I mumbled, “I can’t wait for Summer”, and felt the watery intruder melting down my neck.

Trucks plowed heavy March snows from neighbors’ driveways, while wind gusts boomeranged it back at me as I labored with my own heavy snowblower. I uncurled my frozen fingers, one by one, from the icy grips of the obtrusive machine, and beneath a thick wool scarf wrapped around my face like an entombed mummy, I cursed the forecast and screamed in muffled frustration, “I can’t wait for Summer”!

It’s July and the humidity is oppressive.  Mid summer in western New York means muggy days and restless nights. A frosty winter breeze would feel so refreshing but the calendar gives me no solace. “How soon to Winter”?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I mowed the grass? Yet, there it lays, waiting for another clipping. Is there no end to summer’s workload?  Safety glasses! Earplugs! Industrial yard machines cranking up the descibles! I yearn for the peaceful whisper of a powdery snowfall. “How soon to Winter”?

An evening stroll through our garden on a warm August night demands a healthy dose of insect repellant. Even then, in a struggle for survival, the stronger mosquitoes find unprotected spots on my arms and legs to draw my precious blood. A winter frost would be my ally in this ongoing battle between bug and body. Desperately, I cry out to Mother Nature, “How soon to Winter”?

I’m comforted to know Fall is just around the corner. It’s my favorite season, you know, except for the ragweed and golden rod, of course. And, yes, it’s followed too closely by winter,with its long, cold, black nights and grey, bone chilling days…

Well, there’s always Spring…

srbottch