Spring has teased for weeks now, but New England knows she’s a flirt and not always a pretty one. Snowbanks melt back along streets in Portland to show us accumulated trash the careless have dropped or thrown from car windows all winter. With it are thawing remains of pigeons and seagulls. Little is picked up because we know more snow will bury it again and soon.
Along country roads the melt exposes empty beer cans but thankfully not many. Other detritus is mostly leaves and branches — the benign debris of Nature. Turkey buzzards back from southern climes appear overhead scouting remains of forest animals too old and weak to have survived winter. During seasonal transitions we look forward and back. New England poet Robert Frost reflected on this in A Patch of Old Snow:
There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper
The rain had brought to rest.
It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten —
If I ever read it.
Few poets appeal to me but Frost always has, and he knew the tease of March and April. Reading him I see it, smell it, feel it.
Warm breezes over Portland Harbor carry a stronger scent of salt water. The sea was whipped up last weekend by a strong storm to our south and helped a full moon, making high tide very high indeed. Wind whipped the white salt spray from tops of waves, but Boston and Cape Cod absorbed most of the fury.
Next to Portland Harbor a mountain of snow melts slowly. Front-end loaders on city streets filled trucks that dumped load after load beside it as bulldozers pushed snow up ever higher up the side of it. Like the dirty snowbanks that comprise it, no white is visible. It’s a pile of frozen liquid covered with sand that doesn’t melt completely until the end of May sometime.
After the flirt of our fickle New England spring comes the snub. By the time you’re reading this another storm will have blanketed everything once again. Then spring will resume her flirting only to spurn us again before April arrives. But our April spring isn’t steadfast either. Frost tells of that in the third stanza of Two Tramps in Mudtime:
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.
The rest is here.