Letters from the settlement: March and April

On March 1st we got the snowstorm of the season. Twelve inches in twelve hours. It was over the tops of my snow boots, and my poor daughter couldn’t break her own paths through it. We bundled up to play, trudged around the yard for five minutes, then she said “mom, I want to go inside.” So she did. I stayed outside to appreciate it for a few minutes more.


Then there were a few days of glorious sun and warm. The snow melted. On my daughter’s birthday we lay a quilt on the grass and sunbathed in short sleeves and bare feet. It was a good day.

The next day, and for the rest of the month, it was chilly and gray. Standard March weather. It’s possibly the dreariest time of the year–one daren’t be ungrateful, after winter, but it still isn’t nice enough to spend time outside and so one stands by the windows, scratching at their frames while looking out from under one’s brow, anticipating . . .


And then it warmed up again. I am taking walks in the woods again. The chocolate-colored squirrels are still around, I’m happy to report, and a huge crop of new tree-ears have gotten started. On the last day of March there were still no wildflowers blooming.

On the first day of April, spring beauty was everywhere.


Last night my daughter and I went outside to play at twilight. She likes to make Troll Soup in an old bowl. One starts with water, then adds good black soil, dried leaves, dead flowers, wood chips . . . anything one can find. The trolls always eat the soup overnight. That bowl is always magically empty in the morning.


While we were out, we saw the neighborhood fox. Since I first complained that I had never seen her, she has shown herself several times. While there was snow on the ground she liked to trot along the covered back porch of our house, to keep her paws dry.

Last night she came out of the woods with a dead animal in her jaws and paused under the big oak tree. The rubicund light caught her orange fur and the yellow grass and the gnarled limbs of the oak tree, and for a moment, I felt that I was seeing something more than a fox and an oak tree. It had meaning. What that meaning was I’ll have to think on.


My daughter is becoming quite the naturalist. She and my husband take walks and come back with bits of impedimenta to show me. Yesterday she explained how black locust pods form. They begin as pinecones (she had one of those), then they turn into chickweed fronds (she had one of those), then into tree bark, into a dead leaf, then finally into locust pods.


We are ill suited to be outdoors, after the winter. I am pale, pale, pale, and so far the sunshine hasn’t done anything about it. My feet are soft, too. I took my usual walk and came back with blisters so bad that I had to give it up for a couple of days. The one advantage of coming out of winter is that one has surrendered to the cold. One’s system no longer expects to be warm, so a day of barely fifty degrees feels fine and one of seventy-five feels like a tropical vacation.


More flowers than just spring beauty are pushing out of the ground, but not blooming yet. I’ll report back to you at the end of April.

The food of March was still quiche. What can I say? I am off meat.


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