The Suitcase Lady


March 19, 2008, 1:19 am

Everyone here in the upper Midwest is yearning for any signs of spring no matter how small.

When I was a city dweller, the local custard stand was our harbinger of spring. The air could be frigid and the snow piled up in filthy heaps, but when the custard stand pulled up its windows for the season, joy was in our hearts.

Potholes of legendary size and strange objects (shopping carts, car mufflers, squashed traffic cones) sticking out of melting snowbanks were among our other urban spring indicators.

Living in the country now, I have a different set of markers. First on the list would be the appearance of the buckets. A grove of trees all sporting shiny buckets is a sure sign the sap is rising. Having neighbors who sugar off and share is a treat beyond compare.

The next best milestone occurs when our big rural mailbox out by the road survives two straight weeks without being mangled, disabled or flattened. The gigantic county snowplows eat mailboxes for lunch. Our box has spent hours this winter in the basement ER room being reconstructed.

The appearance of Lake Dennis is another portent of spring’s approach. The view from my kitchen window is a large field which has a low spot in the middle. Last year this ad hoc lake hosted a family of ducks. Might this year bring the installation of a pier and small boats?

Friends who are true naturalists tell me that hearing spring peepers is the vernal equinox made audible. Unfortunately, I can’t tell a spring peeper from a Virginia creeper. But I do know that the day I see Chippy scurrying under the bird feeders vacuuming up the fallen sunflower seeds is the day spring officially begins for me.

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