Monday, March 23, 2009
Last evening, about an hour before dusk, a front rolled through. Suddenly, the sky grew dark and the wind picked up. Greenish grey clouds gathered overhead and started spilling wet snowflakes. The wind drove the snow sideways as it picked up in intensity. It stopped as quickly as it began, but the air had changed. After a taste of spring and a few weeks of moderating temperatures, it was cold again.
This morning when Rigby and I set foot outside, the sun was shining brightly, but it was barely above freezing, and the breeze made it feel much worse than that. I was wearing an insulated fleece under my suede ranch jacket and I wished that I had also worn gloves.
As we started out along one of our usual routes, I noticed how quiet it was. Traffic was unusually light and there was no one else out walking. The sidewalks were empty as far as the eye could see. I decided that it must be too cold for most people to venture outside for very long. People seemed to be staying inside their homes or cars if they could help it.
The only sounds were from nature. Two tufted titmice called back and forth to one another across a backyard. The sound of the north wind, high in the tops of the white pines, was like the roar of some distant lion. All along the street, the music of wind chimes echoed, some deep and resonating, some light and tinkling like mandolin music as we made our way down toward the brook. I was eager to turn a corner to get the wind at my back and out of my face.
Rigby kept shaking herself, as if she could somehow shake off the cold the same way she shakes off the water after her bath, but it wasn't working. She startled each time the bully wind tumbled a big brown leaf across her path, ready to give chase. I reminded her that the chipmunks weren't out yet and they were only leaves.
Down at the brook, we arrived just in time to see the fat little muskrat crawl up the bank and sit on someone's lawn. He seemed to root around a bit, then sat back on his haunches eating something. Rigby stared intently at him, and I was glad she didn't bark. I'm trying to break her of the habit of barking at anything that moves.
The trees around the brook are usually full of birds. On most days, there are black capped chickadees, cardinals and sparrows by the score. Last week, I noticed that the blackbirds are already back. Grackles, redwings and cowbirds were squeaking, squawking and clattering high in the branches and flitting about the tall, mauve-colored rushes that rise out of the marsh. Today though, there is only a lone, downy woodpecker making his way up the bark of a bare tree next to the road. He looks at us and gives a nasally snort before disappearing around the trunk.
We started back up the hill, toward home as the wind picked up again. It buffeted my hair about, whipping my face and it flattened Rigby's ears against her head. She looked back over her shoulder at me with narrowed eyes, as if to say: "I thought winter was over! Why is it so cold?" My fingers, ears and nose were stinging.
The wind slammed into us, pushing us back a few steps. The noise it made was like the voice of the dying winter, howling in protest as the season turns, sapping its strength. It is forced to leave, but is vowing that it will rise again and return to hold us in it's icy grip, soon,...much too soon.