You never know what you’re in for with March in the Catskills: it could be blizzards, it could be 60 degrees in the muck. But even in a year like this one — cold and defiantly snowy, roadsides piled high with the last grey dregs of winter — something in the landscape is always getting a little ahead of itself. A snowdrop, maybe, or a petrichor whiff in the air. This morning, it was a cardinal absolutely going to town in the forsythia bush, snow be damned.
The sound of that bird in the early morning air was clear and liquid and gorgeous, and it made me crabby. After six months of winter, I’d forgotten how much I missed all those trite and delightful things of spring: birds singing, sun shining, leaves leafing. Getting just a little taste of them this time of year is like being ferociously hungry and eating one cracker. It sort of makes it worse.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for spring. I will make the most undignified noises of joy when it stops toying with us all and arrives for real. But T.S. Eliot was right: it’s a cruel time.
For the Catskills homeowner, spring is the worst season. Sure, it’s not as hard on the wallet as January, what with the frozen pipes and the plowing, but it’s hell on morale. Flooding, our most abundant native disaster, is always just a thaw away. And, flood or no flood, the mud is chronic, and must be endured. For the next few months, you will be a mud creature: mud in the yard, mud on the floor, mud in the turned-up cuffs of your jeans. Any shoes you harbor an iota of affection for, you should probably give up on ‘til Memorial Day.
Worse, spring destroys your illusions. The snow melts from the fairytale landscape, only to reveal all the unglamorous havoc that winter has wrought. Those gutters that were entombed inside a beautiful fortress of glittering icicles are now revealed in all their sad disarray. There can be no pretending. They are busted; your shingles doubly so. Your yard is just as disreputable as you left it in November. If your house is anything like mine, there are probably some toys scattered around, for a surprise (so that’s where that thing went!).
It is difficult to begin anything ambitious in the spring. The ground is too gelatinous for landscaping, the weather still too chilly and unpredictable for the biggest of your home renovation projects. Still, if you want to actually get anything done this year, it is important to have a plan of attack, especially if you need to call a guy.
By the time spring rolls around, the prudent Catskills homeowner will already have a guy, possibly several. Every household must have a guy: a stone guy, a sheetrock guy, a roof guy, perhaps just a guy, full stop. He is the guy you call. His name is Stan, or Bob, or possibly Sue, and you are at his mercy. If he is in the phone book, odds are he’s not in the business section. Perhaps you have his number scrawled on a Post-It and stuck to the fridge. Perhaps he does not answer his phone at all. You are not, after all, the only fish in the sea.
If you have a guy, and he is a good guy, odds are very good that he is already booked up until October. If you don’t have a guy, you have got to get cracking. Now is the time to call around to your friends and neighbors, entreat them to tell you all about the various guys of their acquaintance, and hope that they will share their good ones.
Spring is a fickle season, a season that lays waste to your plans. But there is one household task it is unfailingly good for, and that is getting rid of things. On the first really beautiful day, you may be seized with a fierce urge to purge yourself of all the household dross that’s piled up throughout the year. You may have glorious visions of a new, minimalist life; a life with order and sense and a monochromatic palette, and no Legos lurking under the couch cushions.
It won’t work. The stuff creeps back in. But you should give in to it anyway. Get rid of them: the schlubby winter coat you’ve had for at least three too many seasons, the socks that are starting to go, the pickles lurking in the darkest corner of the fridge. Do it now, before the acquisitive madness of summer gets a hold of you, and you find yourself at Lowe’s pushing a huge shopping cart full of cabana-striped porch accoutrements.