Line Storm

At Home in New Hampshire



So you’ve survived February. Again. Spring waves its seductive tendrils in the misty distance. Or is that a hallucination? On your morning walk, you cut a twig from a sapling. You’ll put it in water to see what kind of leaves sprout. Can pussy willows be far behind? Forsythia?

The dog sticks her nose in the air, sniffs, gets an idea in her pointy head and takes a powder to the neighbor’s. She does this once a year. You tramp cross-country to fetch her back—ice, rotten snow (deep in places), mud in the swales. Thanks, dog.

You apologize to the neighbor. “Spring fever,” you say. The neighbor doesn’t mind. He may or may not be the same person who lived in that little house last year. Hard to keep track. They come, and they go. You learned, long ago, not to get attached. Also, getting too friendly with the neighbors is a bad idea. Next thing you know, they’ll want to pop in for coffee or borrow your ladder.

The snow’s going. Banks shrinking. Sun shines hot for a couple of hours each afternoon. You chop ice floes into chunks and push them onto the warmed tar of the driveway. The ice turns to slush. You sweep the slush away before it can freeze again at night.

Like the dog, you can smell the change in season. Something fresh. Something wonderful!

You think about pulling the evergreens and insulating bags of leaves from around the foundation. You consider taking the plastic off the leaky windows so you can throw those windows open and let in some new air.

You picture yourself stretched out on a lounge chair on the hump of lawn that’s snow free and relatively dry. You imagine the sun warming your hands and face, penetrating the winter layers. You may even remove a layer or two. You won’t get carried away, though, because you remember Aunt Polly who nearly died from pneumonia one almost-spring.

“It was my own fault,” Polly said. “I peeled down too soon.” This is what we must relearn each March or April or even, on occasion, early May. Just when spring seems so close you can smell it, taste it, feel your blood thinning and your dry winter skin sloughing away—just when spring seems so close you’re tempted to peel down to your skivvies and pack away the woolies—just at that moment, Ma Nature says, “Not so fast,” and wallops you.

Sometimes it’s two feet of snow. Sometimes it’s a wind-driven nor’easter. Sometimes it’s sleet, hail and lightning followed by a flood-making deluge. Sometimes—lawd help us—it’s ice bending trees and power lines, which snap under the weight. Just when we thought we were home free, we’re in a pickle. Pa Winter says, “Ha!”

The line storm—most heartbreaking of all—marks the transition between seasons. Just when you think you can’t bear to shovel out the mailbox one more time, you find that you can. Just when you think one more lengthy power outage will break your spirit and kill your generator, it doesn’t. The cellar floods every spring. This is normal. It’s why God invented sump pumps.

The line storm hits hard and when you are most vulnerable. Almost always, surprisingly, it’s a surprise. But afterward, you trust, spring will take hold. A line storm is bad, but it’s also good. Unless you miscalculated.

Unless it turns out this wasn’t the line storm after all. Unless your optimism has tricked you once again and the true storm is still to come.

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