This winter hasn’t given us much snow. But it has given us record cold and an inordinate amount of freezing rain and ice. Walking to the end of my driveway with my snow shovel, I attempted to clear out ice left from the previous night.

Chipping away, I felt a give that had little to do with the ice and everything to do with the shovel. The shaft shattered; straightening out my back before I threw down the shovel, I felt a subtle scent of spring. It was a clear, cold smell that was different from the frigid, pure smell of the ongoing winter, and I couldn’t help but wonder what it was.

I turned in my driveway and observed the trees I’d planted over a quarter-century before. When I purchased my home, I had little money for anything that would make the lot more livable. In fact, I remember not hearing any birds singing in the trees because there were literally no trees. A then-colleague allowed me to go to his lot and pull saplings. Now I stood looking up at the skeleton of a tree that has a height of at least 40 feet.

The odd smell couldn’t be coming from my trees because they had little to nothing to produce any fragrances. They were simply fingers reaching into the gray of our February skies. So, where were these scents coming from?

Walking to my garage, filled with deck furniture hoping to survive another summer of barbecues and friends, I noticed something green in front of my house. At first I thought it was trash blown there from someone else’s yard. Looking closer, I saw what looked like a shoot. Was it producing a fragrance that would define the coming spring? It was too small and destined to shrivel up because it was much too early.

I now had a choice: I could either give up on the smell or conclude that it must have come from my memory. I decided to look up. Above me, a single gull circled. Could this be the source of the scent? How could I possibly smell something that flew so high in the sky? Maybe it was also looking for the source of a scent that summoned the beginning of the end to our winter.

Looking back down, I noticed a red object in my peripheral vision. Stuck deep in the web of sticks that was my burning bush plant in winter was a sphere that had no right to be there. I laughed to myself – it was a small ball one of my grandchildren must have thrown and given up trying to find. Memories flew into my mind of past fun times and hopes of future ones.

Winter is a difficult time to survive on the coast of Maine. The reason we live here is the knowledge that nothing stays the same and everything changes. Though I couldn’t find the source of the scent, I know it is heralding a new season.

 

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