Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ice Out

There are some in New England for whom spring begins at the sign of the first crocus or the sighting of the first red robin. There are others who believe that spring begins when pitchers and catchers report for Red Sox spring training (today, by the way). But for the past eleven years, spring begins for me when there’s ice-out on the Merrimack.

This winter has not been a severe one. The first true cold snap didn’t come until mid-January, but it was strong enough and long enough to cast a frozen spell upon the river. Everything seems to be in suspended animation when the river ices over: where previously flowed a blue mercurial existence now everything stops still. Day after day, week after week, the whole world is locked away. In time your very soul feels imprisoned, and in a little more time you’ve forgotten the living river life and grown accustomed to your hard sentence of winter.

But then one day the ice cracks and the water makes a break for it. You see the open stretch of currents running beneath the sun. Just as suddenly something in your heart unlocks and life itself again is streaming through your veins. And if you’re half-human still, maybe a tear just rises to a single eye to water this vision and make it grow. Ah, the shoot of spring is rising. Before you know it, the red-winged blackbirds will soon be blooming.

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