MARCH MILDNESS

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MARCH MILDNESS

            After Friday morning’s snowstorm we’ve been blessed by two beautiful days and have made an excellent recovery.  Saturday was especially lovely, which was just what I needed, after being too much of a show off, and shoveling more than was wise on Friday. The snow shoveling was a great tonic for my ego on Friday, but all day Saturday I grew creakier and creakier.  If the weather had wanted to, it could have knocked me out with a feather, but for some strange reason it decided to be kind.

            That is very unusual, for New England in March.  The old saw, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” was written for Europe, and also for the Medieval Warm Period. In New England March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lioness.

            Anyway, it isn’t even the end of Match, so the weather had no business being like a lamb, yet it was.  I didn’t trust it, but didn’t deny it either.  I went out onto the front steps, sat down in the sun, and shut my eyes. 

The only sound was the sound of snow dripping from the roof, and trickling under the slushy ice in the driveway.  The temperature was fifty and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Even with my eyes shut the brilliance filled my mind with light, and even the cold snow seemed to be acting like a reflector oven.

I could remember doing the exact same thing fifty-five years ago, and with a bit of wishful thinking could nearly imagine opening my eyes and discovering the past fifty-five years had been a dream, but then my dog pushed her nose in my face.

The weather did a week’s worth of clean-up in six hours, and I was thankful for that.  I can remember a week in early April that was colder than January was, that particular year, and the snow didn’t melt at all.  In fact it is usually April that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, in New Hampshire. 

As the sun sank and the mild day ended I went for a walk, marveling at how the cloudless sky reflected off the sagging snow, pale blue in the sunlight and deep blue in the shadows, and then noticed a faint wafting of chill in the air.  When I glanced towards the nearest chimney I could see the smoke was not rising; it was forming a flat shelf, and very slowly that shelf was drifting to the south.  I shook my head.  The north wind was sneaking back.

If you look at the first map above you will see that the entire east of the United States is in a general southerly flow, helped north by the clockwise flow around a storm over Missouri, a second over Ontario, and a third over north-most Quebec; you can follow the 1016 mb isobar’s yellow line from Cuba all the way to Labrador; there seems no possible way we could get anything but a tropical flow.  However then you notice that banana-shaped high pressure over Nova Scotia, flattened around the top of our Friday-storm, departing the right edge of the map.  The tip of that high protrudes just enough over New England to bring us a breath of chill.

If you look at the second map you can see by the next morning it was colder in New York City (43F) than up the Hudson River at Glen’s Falls (63F), and warmer just across the Vermont border in Canada, (51F) than in Boston (37F). 

Call it a sea breeze, or call it a back door cold front, or say, like Joe D’Aleo, “cooler air drifted in from the northeast over the fresh snow,” it happens all the time in New England.  It destroys the forecasts, as days that were suppose to aim at sixty barely budge by forty.

I knew it had happened once again, today, even before I got out of bed.  A car was passing slowly out on the road, and rather than driving through slush they were making a crackling racket, as they passed over whatever you call slush, when it is refrozen.

The sun was again bright, but the melting was slower to start. When I went out to sit in the sun I wore a coat. But I didn’t forget yesterday.

Hardship, which everyone understandably avoids, feels good when it stops.  However this is only ordinary relief.  There is a second sort of relief that seems extraordinary, after extraordinary hardship, and in the second case one’s tired old heart remembers a thing called “gratitude.”

In the first case sunshine is merely sunshine, and everyday, but in the second case it feels like God’s grace is raining down upon you.

It is sad the nights have to be so dark before we thank the dawn, illness has to be so prolonged before we are thankful to merely be pain-free, quarrels have to dagger and dig before a smile seems a miracle. We never seem to count our blessings until they’re gone.  

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