It is the end of April and although the temperature at sunrise was only a few degrees above freezing, in New Hampshire we have spring on our minds. I love winter with its frigid winds that blow drifts of alabaster frost against my window panes. But in April, I am ready for a change. And spring is a season of change- crocuses that peek out from under the flakes of a rogue snowstorm, the explosion of yellow forsythia, the promise of buds on the barren tree branches.
Where I work there is a ditch that separates the parking lot and a small field. When the snow melts, the ditch fills with water that ices up at night and melts during the day. A couple of weeks ago, I got into my car at the end of a long day of work and sat back, relishing the warmth left by the afternoon sun. In silence, I watched the wind ripple the water in the ditch, and my mind flew back to the days when I was a child.
Bodies of water hypnotize children, drawing them near, begging them to forage around the frozen earth until they find something that will float. A dried oak leaf left behind by last October’s winds makes the perfect canoe, and a blade of new grass its navigator, and before long, an adventure ensues. At the house on 30 Green Street, I had many such adventures. On Saturday mornings, it was not unusual to hear my mother admonish us with “Shut off that idiot box and go outside and play!” It didn’t take long to learn that dawdling inside resulted in being assigned a household chore, so as soon as Roy Rogers and Trigger headed for the sunset, I bolted out the door and headed across the street to play down by the river.
In April, down by the river was alive with the promise of spring. Under the dark umbrella of fir trees, a small rivulet bubbled between frozen banks, creating the perfect opportunity to race leaf boats or splash chunks of ice under the surface to see how quickly they would melt. Tiny sprigs of green peeked from under tufts of grass bleached dry by last summer’s heat. And in the shaded areas never kissed by the pale winter sun, granular snow formed fields of ice crystals. I had spent the winter watching Tarzan movies on our black and white television, and imagined the ice crystals were real diamonds, waiting to be scooped up and smuggled out of the African wild. My fat, Persian cat, Perfidia, who loved to hunt down by the river, became a wild lion. I faced him down like Tarzan did, yelling “Ungawa!” Undaunted, he sleepily blinked at me, and rolled over to let me scratch his belly. When I had finished, my lion, purring contentedly, trotted off in search of a field mouse or a mole.
We repeated this game for years, until I traded fashion magazines and lipstick for woodland adventures and Perfidia grew so old that one day he went down by the river and never came home.
As I sat in my car watching the ditch, I thought about change. How curious that although I welcome the change of each New England season, I fight the changes that threaten to upset the delicate state of my life’s sameness. I follow the same routines during most of my days. I rise at five, shuffle from the bedroom to the kitchen to pour my coffee, and shuffle back to my bed where I sip and watch the news. I always make my bed before work. I always check the mailbox when I get home from work. I always lock the door and turn down the heat before crawling between the covers at the end of a day.
And yet, like the way spring sweeps away the cobwebs left behind by winter’s dry breath, the spring of my life is upon me. I’ve packed away my winter coat and rearranged my closet to make room for summer clothes. I’ve taken on a new and challenging project at work. And I, who have not taken a vacation in over thirty years, have bought and paid for a cruise to Alaska’s Inner Passage, to be taken at the end of May. It’s not exactly down by the river, but there will be water and adventure, and excitement. Besides, it’s spring- time for a change.