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This post is contributed by Coastal Rivers Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.

Editor’s note: This piece is from Barnaby’s archive.

In the month of the Lion and the Lamb, flying, blustery days, one after another, go winging past, spinning on the skirts of arctic highs between the shivering damps of grey coastal lows. “I say,” says a friend one day, “I think I heard a red wing, but can’t be sure. Seems a little early.”

All the signs come to me – teasing glimpses of light and warmth, of easier times in the offing. In the woods, the ground is dappled with patches of bright sunlight falling on old, brown leaves. They are warm to the touch, those patches, and they’re everywhere. There are stirrings in the duff and under rotting logs. A redback salamander moves one hind leg, absorbed in thawing out. Miniature firs and pine seedlings awaken green, their tiny root hairs sucking at frost crystals as they strive to lay down their first growth rings. And sharp shadows of branches and twigs pattern themselves on the forest floor, on the side of the barn and on the roof.

Keeping to the theme, a snowshoe hare strikes out down the path from under a hemlock, all blotches and patches of brown on white as though it can’t decide which color to be, or which way to run for that matter. It’s in their nature in that clan to be indecisive. The season for following their crooked track will melt away soon, so who will know?

old house in early springAnd who knows just when the first drops of sap will plink on the bottom of a tin pail hanging on a sugar maple? It won’t be long either, you can bet, when a man comes out his back door to kick at the last pieces of stove wood frozen to the ground, or when the shanties come in off the ice. Winter, by then, will become like an old man with an ache in his bones.

There was a loud cracking down back on the swamp this morning. No way to know, of course, just what was happening, but I saw no one, not even a dog – just last year’s cattails poking up through tired ice in the bright sun. And in the same light, I noticed in the road the frozen ruts are beginning to glisten.

Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.

Eastern redback salamander courtesy of imarsman via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).