The Block Island Times
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Now That It Is March

By Martha Ball | Mar 09, 2014

It is March and it is cold and gray and bleak and I wonder when the records were broken for this time of year. It is easy to find such information quickly on-line and armed with a date I flip back though The Block Island Times archive to the first week in March seven years ago. It was not so long into writing this column that I realized there is a pattern to all this weather that seems as it is happening so unusual; I know that to be a fact yet I remain surprised.

Seven years ago the first week of March:

“It was 10 degrees this morning, cold as forecast but not deep and bitter. There was no wind, just air stirring, ruffling a stand of dry grass, brushing brittle twigs together, but not boring through layers of clothing, not parting the dog’s long hair when he stood side to it...

“This may be the most dangerous cold, the kind that does not seem to be there. The air was so dry the frozen puddles were disappearing. It was the cold that makes itself known in snapping branches and ground once again hard underfoot. A day without wind, or without blasting, cutting wind, is a blessing, a gift, even if snow is hanging in the clouds...

“It is March, a roller coaster of weather. Winter, still, by the calendar, winter, still, by the temperature. It was nearly warm, muddy in places, then the ponds froze overnight and talk of iceboats returned to the store aisles.”

Now, I look out at the big pond behind my house, at its beautiful frozen, snow-mottled surface, a study in the colors of winter. The open weave curtain of bare branches through which I can see it will be lush trees in a few short months, blocking all but tiny slivers of blue water.

The view, the pond all gray and white, nestled between winter dead hills, waiting for the morning sun to come out from behind the clouds, is of the winter I was describing so many years ago when a friend waited outside the little marina shop where I was working, listening to me spin a tale of the off-season. It was a picture of muted colors there for the finding in a seemingly barren landscape, ending with an apparently quotable “bleak and desolate and very, very beautiful” which I would never have remembered but for it having been repeated back to me more than a few times.

Perhaps it is easier to see that beauty in the sleeping land now that it is March, always a pretender but nonetheless the month spring arrives. We had a late snow on the date of the equinox in 1992 and I lay in bed watching headlights play on the wall, listening to the scraping of the plow in the Mansion Road. That time I remember as it was when I lost an entire column by a miss-key on a new word processor —misplaced, really, I found it months later when I better understood the “save” function. My words were centered on the sights and sounds of that night and the advice of the older man who had lived part way down Bush Lot Hill who would say “watch the way of the wind when the sun crosses the line.” It foretold the coming three months.

It was a ritual, then, keeping track and running out at the appointed moment, a rite lost to local weather stations and the ease of accessing information recorded by them. I am horrified to realize the equinox is not on the calendar over my desk until I notice Presidents Day and realize I never bothered to flip the page. In March dates fall on the same days as in February, it is only now that my annoyance has overcome my fascination with that once-a-year phenomenon which always takes me to why is it we cannot have a lunar calendar? I pull myself back from the edge of the abyss that is the history of the never wholly successful efforts of man to define and measure time.

The dog wants to play, to be in the cold she loves and takes for granted and I tell her she can go out if can contain her shedding to the yard and field, anywhere that is not inside. She hears only “out.” It is not that I was without knowledge of this down-side of these beautiful dogs when I brought her into my house and I know it is not her fault.

Over the years I have read this or that column in this or that newspaper or magazine about housekeeping and been struck that what I am reasonably sure is the product of comedic license on the part of the writer is, in fact, my world. Vacuuming to me is not really a chore provided it is left so long that there is a real sense of accomplishment to it, an easy thing when one lives in an old house, by its nature dusty, on a dirt road which is self-explanatory, that is also in the path of the prevailing summer winds, which bring clouds of grit from a heavily trafficked beach access.

Add to that a golden retriever gone from soft-as-a-rabbit puppy to a beautiful young adult with long hair that is caught on everything but her brush...

I love my vacuum cleaner, advertised for households with pets, not old houses on dirt roads, just pets. Overall, it may not have been the best choice for my gritty world but I much prefer the container that fills, visible proof positive I’ve done something, to the opaque bags of my old canister. Two days ago, the last time I vacuumed before this morning, not my usual schedule by... weeks, I threw in the towel and did not even wrap the cord around the nice little hooks provided but simply draped it over the handle. It sat unused for two days, not the usual time span longer than I’m going to commit to paper.

Almost makes me wonder, do vacuums exists to chase golden retrievers or are retrievers bred to support the vacuum industry?

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