While dogwoods may be in bloom elsewhere, Vermonters still have to contend with snow on the ground.
Watching the white stuff melt is like watching winter in reverse. The fluffy snow on top coagulates into ice crystals that act and sound like glass beads when you walk through them. And when you get to the very bottom of the snowy mounds, you find the sheets of ice laid down in a fury of December storms that brought the dreaded wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain to the area.
But where there’s melting snow, there’s hope for spring, right?
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. And you can find it any time, right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.
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The flu has been making the rounds in Carding, Vermont. Ruth Goodwin nicknamed it the “kinda-sorta flu” because you kinda feel like you have a cold and you feel sorta achey. The overall impact on those under the influence of the virus is a week of extreme lethargy brought on by an inability to take in enough oxygen because of congestion.
Everyone’s been drinking pots of herbal tea laced with echinacea in between naps and watching the last of the winter snow melting away into spring.
Edie Wolfe was one of the first Carding-ites to succumb so she’s now on the healing side of the equation. She’s on day six of her self-imposed regimen of fluids and sleep. She’s read three books so far but can’t remember any of them, consumed the last of her candied ginger from Christmas (a present from her sister Rosie), and now she’s pulled a comfy chair up to her front window so she can watch the sun play with the puddles spreading out from the mounded snow at the end of her driveway.
Of course you know what happens when you sit still. You start to notice stuff.
“Hmph,” Edie said as she leaned forward to run a forefinger over the windowsill. “You can tell I haven’t dusted in here for a while.”
So she moseyed out to the kitchen for her tote of cleaning products, a sponge and a bucket of warm water.
And the windowsills got a thorough cleaning. Then the top of the honey-colored wainscoting got the full treatment. As she nudged her chair to one side to reach a far corner, Edie realized she hadn’t vacuumed since catching the flu. So the vacuum came out of the closet.
Before too long, she was moving furniture to get at all those hard-to-reach places normally hidden from public view. That’s when she realized that her dog Nearly had left nose prints all over the lower pane of the storm door on the front of Edie’s house. While Edie had her favorite chair, Nearly, being a wee cocker spaniel, preferred sitting in the sun streaming in the front of the house as he surveyed the great world beyond his home with Edie.
As she washed the windows in the front door, knowing full well that her dog would lay down new signatures as soon as she was done, Edie’s gaze drifted out to the porch that wrapped around the northwest corner of her house. Some of the accumulated detritus of her autumn cleanup was still there, abandoned when winter’s first storm hit Carding.
She sighed, a roll of paper towels in her hand. It was a truism widely acknowledged in northern New England that whatever is still outside when the first snowflakes fall will still be there when the sun comes up on the vernal equinox.
“I should have taken that stuff down to the basement,” she told Nearly. “Do you think I should do that now?”
The little dog’s tail fluttered with excitement. It had been days since he’d had a proper walk and he was up for anything that encouraged Edie to step outside.
“Okay. I guess we can do that. I’ll get my coat.”
Over the course of a year, the daytime temperature in Vermont can range from a very frosty 20 degrees below zero to a sweltering day in the 90s with humidity that makes it almost impossible to breathe. This wide disparity means that the terms “warm” and “cold” are relative in this part of the world. In January, anything above freezing is considered warm. In mid-August, anything below 65 is “pretty cold for this time of year.”
Today, at the end of March—a month infamous for its unpredictability—the thermometer in Edie’s kitchen hovered around the 40 degree mark but with a clear sky and light breeze, it felt positively balmy outdoors.
She zipped up her work jacket as she stepped outside, sniffing the air for that first tantalizing taste of spring, the scent of wet earth. Nearly hopped down the front steps, turned to look at Edie and when she did not follow, he hopped back up.
“Sorry, little guy, I don’t think I’m up for a walk today. Be grateful we’re outside.”
She contemplated the porch’s detritus. It was mostly flowerpots, some emptied of soil, some not. There was a short stack of five-gallon pails, useful for all sorts of projects. Every household in Carding had at least four of them.
Next she unearthed a rake, its wooden handle splintered at its halfway point.
“That’s right. I was going to replace that. I wonder if Andy has any handles at the store,” Edie said.
Nearly’s ears pricked up at the word store. He hopped down the front steps again, turned to look at an unmoving Edie, and then hopped back up, albeit with a lot less enthusiasm.
“Hey Edie. Good to see you up and about,” Ruth Goodwin called from the infamous yellow Jeep she drove on her rounds for the U.S. Postal Service. “How are you feeling?”
“Better now that the sun is shining and it’s spring.” Edie gestured at the still-deep piles of snow as she walked down the steps. “How soon do think it will be before this is gone?”
Ruth pointed at the ground near her friend’s feet. A clot of white snowdrops were poking up through the snow beneath the bare branches of a sleeping lilac bush. Edie gasped with pleasure.
Ruth squinted up at the sky. “Oh, I think another week, ten days at the most. It’s supposed to be clear all week, you know. Hey, I thought you were going to replace that rake’s handle last fall.”
“Yeah, you know how it is. The best laid plans…”
“Yeah, I was just at the Coop. Andy’s got a big display of seeds and he was putting out the new gardening tools when I was there.”
“Really?” Edie shaded her eyes to look across the green at Cooper’s General Store. “Now that does sound inviting. This kind of weather makes my fingers itch for digging.”
She looked down at Nearly, his face all smiles. “Well, it probably would be okay if we took a short walk. What do you think?”
The cocker’s tail disappeared in a blur.
“Well, will you look at that,” Ruth said. “Just when you thought that tail couldn’t go any faster, it does. Looks like you’re committed to some perambulation now.”
Remember, you can visit Carding any time by scouring the archive of older stories or by reading one of my four Carding novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, or Lights in Water, Dancing.
Thanks for stopping by.
And please stay healthy.