Hail salted the deck on Palm Sunday this year. It nicked my cheeks as I dashed to the car, clutching the wool scarf wound around my neck. As I write this morning, gray skies are again releasing a curtain of rain, pooling in the already-waterlogged yard. Flipping the calendar to April can’t come too soon for me.
March, as always in this upper left corner of the United States, has been tormenting me with its fickle combination of all four seasons; I think of it as its own time of year—fawintsprisum. Don’t get me wrong. One of the many reasons I love living in the Pacific Northwest, particularly this region on the Salish Sea, is its temperate climate. We’re blessed with distinct seasons, but temperatures that generally fall in the range of low 40s to upper 60s. True, a high of 42° isn’t all that uncommon on the Fourth of July, but we do experience just enough cold (and a day or two of snow) in the winter; crisp, sunny days in the fall; bursts of color and birdsong in the spring; and enough warmth on summer days to shed sweaters and polar fleece—at least until sundown.
I genuinely enjoy what winter brings to my small, rural island—a slower pace with fewer tourists and events, candle glow many hours of the day, hearty stews and soups, snuggling under a hand-woven afghan. I know that not all of my neighbors can indulge in such semi-hibernation; many of them are dealing with the elements on their farms or are scraping windshields or dodging flooded potholes to get to work or school. Some escape, though, retreating to warmer, sunnier climates, returning in March with their skin tinged pink or darker brown.
Most years, I stay put. Rain drips off my hood on daily walks with my dog. I spend many hours curled in a chair by the wood stove, a cat purring on my lap. Some days I wear fingerless gloves as I write in my journal or tap my laptop keyboard. A shot of single malt Scotch before dinner, or a snifter of port after, raises my internal thermostat.
My honest claim that I’m comforted by the gray, wet, Pacific Northwest winter never quite lasts until spring, though. So I’m drawing on my Baker’s Dozen* of ideas to sustain me through these last days of March; feel free to try any of them to help you endure
- Toss another log on the fire and drink a second cup of coffee, holding your mug with gloved hands.
- Listen for the rhythm when hail tap dances across the wooden deck.
- Slip on rain boots and stomp through four, five, sixteen puddles.
- Look lovingly at the garden spade, rake, and trowel, relieved you don’t need a snow shovel.
- Don’t apologize for wearing long underwear to a Spring Equinox party.
- Feel gratitude for a roof over your head, a car with a working heater, and a sump pump in the crawl space.
- Locate sunglasses so you’ll know where they are when the sun unexpectedly shines longer than fifteen minutes.
- Ride the Interisland Ferry for a change of scenery – from green and gray to… gray and green.
- Remind yourself that when it’s cloudy and rainy, dirt streaks aren’t visible on the windows.
- Appreciate that March in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t (usually) include snow.
- Remind yourself that it’s the rain that keeps firs and cedars, well… evergreen.
- Look at the world through rain-splattered glasses.
- Add your most effective coping technique here ___________________________________.
A trip to the compost bin yesterday was like walking on a field of soggy kitchen sponges. One day, before too long, it will be firm and dry (at least most of the time). Until then, I’m making my way through my baker’s dozen. Now, excuse me as I search for my sunglasses.
*Most people probably know that a “Baker’s Dozen” equals thirteen. But do you know why? I put the question to “the great oracle” (Google), and learned the likeliest explanation relates to medieval laws when bread was sold by weight. Bakers who short-weighted customers encountered strict punishment (fines; flogging; an ear nailed to the bakery door; a hand severed), so they avoided these dire consequences by adding an extra to a dozen.