Have you ever had a revelation so uncomfortable that you’re disoriented for days? Maybe you realized you’re in the wrong job, or town, or relationship. You should have adopted that dog. The skinny jeans were a mistake.

The eerie golden glow of March on Mount BeaconPhoto by B. Cronin
The eerie golden glow of March on Mount Beacon (Photo by B. Cronin)

For me, it was when I realized how excited I was for the next few weeks, a time of year that I’m not sure has a name. It’s not “early spring” — no forsythia, crocuses or daffodils, and the only plant coming up is the aptly named skunk cabbage — but it’s not “late winter,” because we could still get enough snow that you have to shovel. It’s not cold enough for a snowman but it’s not warm enough to start planting things. 

For much of the Northeast, this used to be mud season, but we don’t get enough snow anymore for that. Instead, it’s more like awkward season. The waiter has whisked one course away but is taking his or her time bringing the next one. Everyone at the table has run out of things to say. Your stomach hurts and everything smells like skunk cabbage. 

And yet this is what I’m excited about.

Part of the appeal is that I am a sucker for a slow transition, and March is slow. The hazy snow globe of winter is cracking and the light is clearer. The late-afternoon landscape is sharper. Daylight Saving Time hits (two weeks away, on March 10) and everything feels luminous and unreal. There’s an increasing undercurrent of warmth beneath the chill: Today, 42 degrees is chilly. Three weeks from now, a 42-degree morning will prompt you to say “it’s nice out!”

Years ago, I used to canoe and camp on a lake in western Maine. You might not see another person for a week, but the smartphone era was dawning, and being tethered to the vast sum of human knowledge was, like the importance of a good fiber supplement, something I was blissfully unaware of. My one connection to the world was a computerized voice on a solar-powered weather radio. The only things that concerned me were the overnight temperature and the location of storms. 

I felt guilty for bringing the weather radio, but it was necessary. An unexpected storm soaking your firewood, equipment and clothes can make your trip unpleasant. Since this particular lake was miles long, and the view open and wide, you could see approaching storms, which gave you a few minutes to batten down the hatches and slide the firewood under your overturned canoe. 

As the storm drew closer, there were a few moments to reflect; I realized the origin of the phrase “the calm before the storm.” Everything went still. The wind died down, the lake flattened, the birds fell silent. The patter of raindrops on the leaves above me was a signal to dive into my tent before the sky exploded. 

For me, March in the Highlands feels like those moments of calm, but stretched out for a month. You know that soon you will be tending to the yard. You will no longer be the odd person on the trails in the cold. This is your last chance to enjoy the silence.

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

The Skidmore College graduate has reported for The Current since 2014 and writes the "Out There" column. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Areas of Expertise: Environment, outdoors

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