Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Frozen mud season

SInce I've lived in Minnesota, I've heard from time to time that "we had an early Spring this year." Or, when we have a Spring such as last year's, it seems as though Winter never ends. This year I've been paying more attention than usual to the seasonal differences that show up in the four or five years worth of time-stamped digital photographs in My-Minnesota's files. It's becoming more and more clear to me how difficult it can be to try to compare this year with last or with three or five years ago. For many kinds of comparisons, the answer appears to be "it depends." Here's last year's March 11 photo of the road in front of our property.

Spring road condition March 11 2013
Spring road condition March 11 2013    © harrington

I think we would all agree that the Winter just wrapping up was both colder and snowier than the prior year. And yet, thanks to a few warm days in the week past, the same stretch of road looks like this one year and one day later.

Spring road condition March 12 2014    © harrington
Spring road condition March 12 2014    © harrington

I'm not quite sure whether to be delighted by my ability, when I am present and paying attention, to observe notable differences in what's going on around me, or to be dismayed by all the years when I had eyes but did not see. Come to think of it, though, the difference in road conditions could also be accounted for if the township did a better job plowing this Winter than the year before. A quick look at the back yard tree line that tops our south facing slope shows the bare beginnings of snow melt down to ground level. Almost year ago (March 28, 2013) more of the ground had been exposed, as you can see.

backyard snow melt with deer, March 2013
backyard snow melt with deer, March 2013     © harrington

I believe I'm starting to understand just how useless comparisons can be and how valuable being mindful and in the moment is. On the other hand, awareness, notation and record-keeping can help us discern patterns over time, such as a warming, more volatile climate, or the need, come Spring, for wall-mending.

Mending Wall

By Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

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