Lessons from an Adirondack Spring

It’s hard to love Spring in the Adirondacks. Indeed, “Spring” is a bit of a misnomer. The season I had come to think of as “Spring”–warm days, lush with the lavender crocus, yellow forsythia and the magenta azaleas—arrives in the Adirondacks but a few days before Summer. Until then, the snow lingers, disappears slowly, then may reappear in May. The ice gradually loosens and cracks and melts into the lake waters. The liquefying snow turns the ground to a soft tundra of sticky mud, which likely will not dry up until June. And then, for a deeply aggravating month or so, nasty black flies appear, causing locals to run around in netted gear that looks like space suits.

a walk in North River in early Spring

The time can feel like a kind of limbo. Except for a few diehards, many have hung up their skis for the season but haven’t yet retrieved their kayaks. It will be a while before the trees leaf out and return the mountains and forests to their abundant greenness. Planting new flowers and vegetable will need to wait until Memorial Day. Those who can, plan escapes to warmer climates.

My backyard in early Spring

Limbo is disconcerting. Limbo wants to be something else, it wants be  transformed into something more solid and knowable, like a chrysalis into a butterfly. I admit that this sense of waiting for the season to change sometimes dampens my spirits with impatience. But, as with most other aspects of my life, I’m trying to not only learn to accept what is, but find the beauty in it.

The other day I walked down a muddy road and through the woods. Sun had finally emerged and the morning mist lifted from the mountains. The air had that pungent smell of wet leaves—not the sweet wetness of a Spring rain, but the thicker scent of leaves that had been decomposing under snow. Light glistened off the thin sheets of ice remaining in the darker corners of the forest. The dirt roads are deeply rutted.

It feels quieter, with little but the sound of the rushing creeks that are now swelling with melting snow. Tourists have mostly gone and won’t return, but the business of life carries on. A few birds, like this purple finch, which I haven’t seen all winter, have started to make their appearance at my feeder and even a few robins are poking at the earth.

Early Spring means the sap is running. My husband and I are learning about maple syrup, helping our neighbors emptying their taps, collecting sap for boiling. Early Spring is the only time this can be done, the maple trees bleeding only when the temperature begins to rise after a frozen winter. This gift from the trees is a harbinger of the summer yet to come, when even in the North Country, vegetable gardens abound.

Maple trees tapped to yield sap

In recent years, some might say later in life, I’ve been trying to bring mindlfulness into my life. I’m still figuring out what this means. Most days, it feels like learning to be present in the moment without sinking into the past or yearning for the future, to take the time to find feel my connection with the world around me, just as it is. On a day like today, March is going out like a lion and I feel like those tips of the iris and columbine that dared to peek through the slightly warming earth, only to be whacked by a new feathering of snow and single digit cold. I tell myself that I need to learn to breathe into the chill Spring air and be patient.  To revel in the silence. When I see posts of cherry blossoms elsewhere, I sometimes remind myself that my reward for a cold Spring is a summer is not sweltering and humid and a few more weeks of sitting by the fire watching birds at the feeder is not so terrible.

new growth

But  I won’t pretend that I will ever love black flies.

14 Replies to “Lessons from an Adirondack Spring”

  1. Your words so beautifully describe an Adirondack spring as well as embracing how to appreciate it all. Thanks, as always, for sharing.


  2. Thank you, Sharon. You help me to visualize and experience your “spring,” and the in-betweeness of it. That sort of feels like where we are watching helplessly the images of Ukraine–the long slog of a war that drags on…but with a few welcome signs of the spring of a much-longed-for peace to come.


  3. Lovely and apt! I am blessed to have visited Summer in her Florida home (along with all of our herons)! Gorgeous writing, Sharon!!!


  4. Yep. Our new spring here can be lovely with the right attitude and the right clothes. Make being “old and on the way” a journey to cherish together.


  5. Thanks for helping me see out of my little bubble, where right now spring is glorious, all pink and yellow and frothy, birds are in a nesting frenzy, and snow a distant memory. I guess we all grumble about our weather, no matter what it is. I’ve made similar resolutions about loving where I’m at. Try out the PNW during black fly season!


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