One morning, during the January cold spell, my digital thermometer registered 38 degrees below zero. That’s one degree lower than the lowest reading I had ever seen, which was sometime in the 1960s. And the cold did not dissipate, either. Instead, it just stayed well below zero, day and night, for an extended period of time. I wondered how any plants, wild or otherwise, could bear this practically unprecedented stress.
I seriously considered what the landscape might look like next spring, when entire groups of plants failed to come to life. And for that matter, I pondered whether spring would come at all. I thought about the years 1815 and 1816, when crops failed because of cold and people left Maine for warmer climes. These thoughts and more plagued my consciousness.
To make matters worse, ice dams built up on not only the north side of my roof, but also on the south side. This had never happened before. Was this a sign of a nascent, ice age? Would I ever again pick fiddleheads and dandelions? What about vegetable gardens? Might the warmth, if it came at all, not arrive too late to allow crops to mature? It happened in the past, so it certainly seems as though it could happen again.
Then one day it got warm. The sun shone brighter than it had in weeks, or so it seemed. The remaining ice on my roof, stuff that I was unable to remove by raking or chipping, melted. And the East Waldo Road thawed so rapidly that trucks sank in the dead sand that the town passes off for gravel, creating deep ruts. Mud season had arrived, or at least a cameo version of the same.
I decided to grab an ice drill, fishing rod and pack basket and go ice-fishing. I arrived at the pond and walked out, wearing nothing more than blule jeans, a wool sweater and a baseball cap. The fish bit, a warm breeze fanned across the remote pond and I realized that yes, spring would eventually arrive. And the plants? Well, deep snow covered the ground, even before the first Arctic blast. And the snow never melted, in fact, hasn’t yet. Snow serves as an insulator and so our plants, even potentially fragile ones, are probably no worse for the experience.
So my worrying was in vain. Spring will come, probably about the same time it always does. Country folks will head out and dig dandelions and later, pick rocket, or mustard greens. Trout will sip Mayflies and peas, spinach and asparagus will provide gardeners with early-season goodness.
Our world is tough. It takes a lot more than a little cold weather to put it down. We’re tough, too. Mainers always have been a durable breed. So come on, cold. Give us all you have. Spring is only 26 days away and nothing can stop it now.