Rockin’ A Hard Place: Smile! That cold, dasty winter is finally behind us

I know it’s hard for us to agree on almost anything these days, but might we at least acknowledge that the last three months here on the Rock have been the Winter of Our Discontent?

By that, of course, I mean how miserably cold it was — the coldest winter in 32 years, according to the weather gurus, with four times more days below 35 degrees than above 50. Ice and snow. Jaw-dropping bills for heat. Shivering under triple layers of clothing. Forced to sleep with your wool socks on.

By New Year’s Day, I was already pining for a hint of spring. Stuck indoors with cabin fever, I longed to be mowing and planting and hiking, but my chilled feet only made a crunching noise across the frozen earth on my rare visits outside.

Optimistically, I sent my trusty John Deere riding mower off for annual service the second week of February, hoping that might provoke a spring arrival. Instead, it snowed the morning the guy picked it up.

I became increasingly impatient and restless. I came to detest afternoon television, even Judge Judy. By early March, I imagined the grass had grown a little through the kitchen window, but by the next morning it was covered with frost. At that point, I might have welcomed a sprout of crabgrass in the vegetable garden, but alas even that hardy pest had not yet awakened.

Then, finally, about a week ago I saw some blades moving gently in the wind amid my sea of grass. A scrawny weed emerged in the rose bed. A courageous daffodil bloomed beside the house.

The forecast said no rain for the next three days with temps in the 40s and 50s. Hallelujah! Almost a month and a half after I had prematurely got it ready for the occasion, I started my John Deere and hopped aboard.

The smell of newly-mown grass in March is intoxicating. The instant gratification that comes from seeing a freshly cut, spring-green field this time of year is a high that no legal or illegal substance can approach.

Exhilarated, I headed to the Country Store in Oak Harbor, hoping that seed potatoes and onion sets had finally come in. I got there in time to grab some Yukon Golds and Walla Wallas before they were sold out. That annual trek was the final evidence I needed that spring had indeed sprung.

I dragged out the big machine I bought to till the vegetable patch. Of course, it hadn’t been started since October.

Flipped the switch, set the choke. Cranked. Nothing. Of course it had stale gas in the tank I forgot to drain — a sin from late autumn I should know better than to commit, yet again. Installed fresh fuel. Machine started right up and the garden was quickly tilled. I watched in wonder as earth worms wiggled in newly turned soil and birds dived in for a quick meal.

Spring is special here on the Rock. There are lessons I should take away from my journey through the dark, cold winter. But for the moment all I want to do is smile.

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