Sunday, February 22, 2009

Frost Heave

The Maine landscape is entering its unlovely phase. On our drive out to lunch yesterday there was no escaping the dismal: dreary trailers, plow-rucked yards and, in the fields, abandoned vehicles muffled in drifts. Dirty snow lay along the verges, salt frosted passing cards, potholes and frost heaves roller-coastered our drive. Maine's slip was certainly showing and its stockings both had runs.

But here and there a glimpse of the beautiful: a view of the Camden Hills, still looking mistily fresh- snow-powdered and stately across the water; the reflection of a blue-painted porch ceiling against the white walls of a house; a spray of bright red rose hips rising from the drifts along the road.

We're color-deprived at this time of year. We emerge from our holes, pale and blinking, and a sea of white and gray - snow, sky, ocean - nearly blinds us.

On the Reach at low tide the sea ice cracks and subsides over boulders. Seaweed, crisp with rime, supports the busy gulls who never seem to feel the cold. Clammers bend over the flats and in the wind the leaden water crinkles like foil.

Really, it's no time to be here. We're isolated by inertia and the acres of ice in the dooryard and driveway. Snow piled in alpine heaps at crossroads make it difficult to see oncoming traffic; black ice along darker stretches lies in wait.

Some find refuge in seed catalogs and it is lovely to dive in on yet another relentlessly gray day and swim in visions of scarlet runner beans, Empress of India nasturtiums, ruby chard, sunflowers, broom corn, larkspur, sweetpeas and strawberries. At such times, it's wise to guard against ordering too much, staving off the inevitable dismay, late March, when too many boxes of seeds and plants arrive.

By this time of the winter there's a sag to the seat of the part of the couch that faces the windows overlooking the water. Every morning (and most of some afternoons) I sit there, strangely comforted by the sameness of the view, waiting for the first soft morning, surely not far off, when I can plump up the cushions and step out into Spring.