The longer the winter, the hungrier for color I find myself becoming as the spring melt off commences… only to remember, once again, that the earliest moments are a disappointment. What lies beneath the melted snow is not verdant green but drab tan. An endless thatched mat of leaf litter, crushed and dried out, and the remains of all that got left behind when the snows hit — laid bare. It’s not pretty.
At the very bottom of a breath before the inspiration to inhale restarts the cycle, the snow’s departure leaves absence and flatness. Colors are flat, textures are flat; someone pulled the plug and it all deflated. Everywhere is faintly dusty, as if the entire woods has been in a parking lot, snow mountains melted off and a coating of gravel and road dust covering all that remains. Melted snow gives way not to gorgeous wildflowers but grit and death in shades of layers of compressed leaves. Four foot tall goldenrod stems lie prostrate, weaving a chevron pattern across the boggy plateau. Wild leeks and day lilies pop through the mud only to get hammered by the freeze and thaw. Leaf tips shrivel, entire plants heave up and lie sideways, swollen and lifeless. The dogs trample anything that dares to attempt an existence in our walkway.
Around the house, it’s worse. Dog shit and construction debris someone failed to secure last fall lie scattered about the edges of the driveway, sharp edges poking through the wake of pea gravel left by the plow.
Monochrome and breathless. The dogs are the only signs of life out here in the woods, save for the intermittent cries of the robins and blue jays. We come upon bones and feathers, hollow carcasses of deer, porcupines, coyotes, fur clinging to skeletons, pillbugs scattering when I give the bones a gentle kick.
The moment is brief. Warmth and/or water transforms the flatness into gleaming and slick leaf litter, buds and shoots everywhere, and every shade of red, purple, and green challenging the relentless tan. In a week it will all be different. In a month green will dominate. But for now, it is that moment just before the beginning.