February can be a strange month around here. Poke through the archives of this blog and see for yourself. For that matter, a lot of the winter-time stuff found in these pages verges on the odd, perhaps due to a phenomenon known by some as “cabin fever.” Some others will say they’ve come down with a mild case of the “winter blahs” and a goodly number of folks will become so s.a.d. they must sit near bright lights of appropriate spectrum to survive. Around here we prefer the term “shack nasties” but the irony is that, no matter what you call the way folks feel mid-way through a long winter grind, it can happen even to those who are able to get out of their cabin or shack.
We’ve had as much snow as anyone else this winter — even more than most — but we usually do so it’s not a big deal, though the woods seem close to overflowing. It does, however, drag on a bit, and that’s what gets most people, I think. Sometimes it seems winter will never die but, just when it feels we’ve stood all we can stand, it will suddenly be Mud Season and the world will be all pussy willows and peepers.
We’re not quite there yet, but the signs are again pointing to winter’s demise. Firstly, there are the several hundred nights in the camps around Fish in a Barrel Pond reserved by the members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society last weekend. The upcoming season promises to be at least interesting, and Opening Day looms large on the horizon.
Secondly, the tapping of the trees has begun on Bobo’s Mountain. Close to 2500 taps are going in as the 2014 sugaring season gets underway. Pictures and words to follow here, but check out the “Discover” page of their website for the low-down on life in a sugarbush all year ’round. An afternoon spent tapping trees was a nice diversion the other day but the snow hadn’t settled and it was a serious slog. Tremendous effort yielded less than tremendous results, but a few dozen more taps are in and ready for the sap to run.
Thirdly, Town Meeting is just around the corner. Not much of what we do around here directly affects much of anything in the world at large but, on the other hand, not much in the world at large directly affects us, either. We can, however, decide how to run our village and keep its inhabitants safe, even if it takes all of the first Tuesday in March to do it. If the sap is running we’ll have something else to talk about besides all the ice and snow.
It’s hard to think about fishing while the snow is four feet deep but the countdown is on for Opening Day. My pancreas quivers in anticipation of that first guzzle of warm syrup and I’ve dusted off my old copy of “Robert’s Rules of Order” so I know winter is almost over, but the funk of its taint is strong. It fogs the mind and gets in the way of thinking. It makes me write things like “the funk of its taint”.
More time tapping trees and a trip or two around the lake — anything to get outdoors — would help to get through the late-winter blues, but outdoor activities of late have consisted mostly of moving snow so it won’t deflect falling icicles through the kitchen window or run into the cellar when it melts.
There were going to be no posts like this one this year but winter does funny things to people. It’s like that French disease where it feels like you’ve been here before. Whether waxing rhapsodic or just pissing and moaning, sometimes it seems as if I’ve said all I feel like saying about winter, especially this special time of year when we slowly turn the corner to spring.
Cold blue shadows gradually retreat southward as the sun climbs higher each day — at least on non-cloudy days — and with few original thoughts threatening these pages of late, as a cold rain falls and thunder rumbles through the fog, we’d like to serve up a few links to thoughts we’ve had before. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
From the Archives
+Winter’s Back is Broken (and Mine is a Mess) (03/01/11) – Important Safety Note: Never climb ladders or drive tractors while wearing snowshoes.
+Driven to Distraction (03/14/08) – You can’t shoot winter in the head and taking a 30 mph curve at 50 in a snow squall.
+The Snow Flea and the Furcula (o2/23/10) – The amazing snow flea and a process known as “sucking water up its butt.”
+Quill Gordon and the Roof Rake (03/03/08) – Beats the heck out of climbing up there with a shovel!
+If I Had a Hammer … (03/07/11) – Aftermath of an ice storm.
+Vermont Ice Storm, Part II: Rhapsody in Blue (03/08/11) – There is also a Part I, but this part is prettier.
+Mud Season 2012, Two Days In (03/08/12) – Town Meeting and Mud Season, two things that make Vermont special.
+Another Nice Day to Live in Vermont (03/01/13) – Aren’t they all?
Those who are overly sentimental or the least bit squeamish should leave now. What follows could well set a grown man to drinking whisky and bawling like a baby.
In a recent post, I referenced the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. He composed it on turning up a mouse nest with his plow, destroying the wee tim’rous beastie’s home. But the mouse in Burns’ poem was spared, at least as far as we know. A cat or a hawk could have snatched it up as soon as Bobby turned his back but the point of “To a Mouse” would remain the same. It’s always been one of my favorite poems.
A pair of gloves, dropped by the pedal of the tractor, made an attractive nesting place for a pair of mice, who found them overnight. Pressing forward on the pedal to drive out of the shed didn’t bother them at all, but when the pedal was pressed back, to reverse from dumping the first load of snow, they panicked and leapt, just as the tractor advanced to push the snow further along.
The result was catastrophic for the mice.
Brave souls are invited to pour a glass of warm single malt and look, just look at what happened when Quill Gordon got on the tractor yesterday. Then, read the words of Bobby Burns and not shed a tear. I dare ye.
The mice who made a love shack of a pair of gloves:
Hoist a quaff, my friends, drink deep and consider what you’ve just seen as you contemplate these words, used with no one’s permission because everyone should know them:
To a Mouse, by Robert Burns
Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!