Witness to spring

Waking to the sounds of falling icicles and dripping water brings hope for a new season

WESTMINSTER — It was Saturday, so I got to wake up at my own leisure, coming slowly to consciousness as the sounds of the day whispered into my brain - the purring of Rosie snuggled into the crook of my knees, the engine of a car starting up next door, the hum of the furnace kicking into action.

My dreams incorporated the sounds with less and less imagination until I was finally pretty much in a drowsy state of reality. Then, suddenly, the next sound - a crash and thunk from overhead - brought me to full wakefulness.

“Weather,” I thought to myself, and was answered by another clunk.

I opened my eyes and looked out the bedroom window at the blue sky, the glare of the sun on the icicles hanging from the roofline.

Those icicles were dripping to beat the band, the steady plink-plink-plink as the drops hit the metal roof of the porch below keeping a steady beat.

I lay there on my side, cuddled under the covers, watching the icicles melt and thinking of spring: of the buckets on the maple trees in my front yard, where surely the sap was dripping in concert with the icicles outside the windows. The drops were coming so fast that soon they'd be connected to one another, turning into streaming icicles.

Then I got to see one fall, thunking on the roof below. A group of three other icicles nearby swung back and forth for a moment, then steadied. Five longer icicles remained steadfastly hanging through the window view, equidistant from one another due to the ridges in the metal roofing.

I decided not to get up quite yet; it had been so nice watching that first icicle fall that I wanted to do so again. And surely, that group of short wobbly ones was ready to go.

* * *

Rosie had stopped purring, so I reached down and rubbed her head to get her started again, but I kept my eyes on the cluster I expected to drop at any moment. They were melting fast, and I hoped they'd get a chance to fall before they just dripped themselves into oblivion.

Then one of the five long ones let go. I only got to see it peripherally, but it was still good. That one hadn't even been wobbling - it was just there one moment and gone the next. Maybe the wobbling didn't portend falling after all; maybe it was actually giving that little cluster the flexibility it needed to hold on longer. Maybe it would be the last to go.

I was getting antsy now, ready to get up and about. I'd seen two fall already, and maybe that was enough. I sat up. Rosie rolled onto her back and stretched. She wasn't quite ready yet.

As I got dressed, I'd take occasional glances out the window. The four long icicles were getting shorter and shorter, thinner and thinner. I sat on the bed to put on my socks, then took another minute to watch the cluster of three.

And that's when it let go. It fell to the roof below not with a crash but more of a splat. I smiled to myself.

* * *

Downstairs, I checked the outside temperature - 40 degrees already. Two nights ago it had gone down to zero. This was a welcome change. On the way out to my car, I stopped to check the metal buckets hanging on one of my maple trees, ready to hear the steady plinking I had heard from the icicles dripping onto the metal roof.

But what was up with this? The spout was only giving out a drop of sap every 25 seconds. I timed it.

“Maybe I should check the bucket on the south side of the tree,” I thought. But no, it was even a little slower there.

I didn't let my disappointment linger, though - the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the air was warm. Spring was seeping into my brain through my eyes, my ears, the pores of my skin. How could I not smile?

When I got back from town an hour later, I checked the tree taps again. The level of sap in the buckets was up a little, and - yes - those drips were a little faster. They were not up to icicle speed, but they were improving.

Maybe it just takes a little longer for the sun to soak through all that bark and get those maple capillaries pumping. But I was sure it couldn't be long now.

Soon there will be syrup.

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