The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 13, 2014

Spring softens steeled nerves

Harsh winter makes spring nuances more enjoyable


The Mankato Free Press

---- — If author Sherrily Kenyon is correct that the strongest steel is forged by the fires of hell then we emerge from this winter made of tungsten.

Of course, the streng ththrough adversity thing only goes so far and we were pushed to our limits

We have, justly, spent the past months inventing new and colorful language to measure our despair — from "polar vortex" to words unsuitable here.

But if a grim winter holds any benefit, it is the heightened enjoyment of the nuances of spring.

The first day of seeing our street clear of ice from curb to curb brought an embarrassing exhilaration for asphalt — a glorious, wide ribbon of blacktop, even covered as it was with remnants of winter grime, branches and leaves.

The dog is clearly happier. It was sad watching him bound after a squirrel in late winter, only to see him bog down in heavy snow. Now he can easily make his always futile attempts to land prey.

Just walking across the yard each day, feeling for the bounce that signals the ice is beginning to leave and guessing the day the pooled water on the lawn will percolate away as the frost-free soil goes deeper is a pleasant distraction.

The tea rose, whose roots were partly dug up last fall and the plant pushed over into a trench, covered with soil — the "Minnesota Tip" necessary to protect the delicate but aromatic roses — is dug up with a fork and placed upright. It's dirty, but the stem's still brightly lime green thanks to its insulated winter bed.

Even it seemed to sigh as it was hosed off and began to feel the sunlight.

A stubborn wad of ice is still holding in the shady edge of the pond, but soon it can be refilled, the pump pushing water up to the waterfall to create melodic sounds as the big goldfish and colorful shubunkins find freedom from the aquarium.

Thousands of robins that have been migrating through in recent days having a feeding frenzy on dried berries clinging to trees. They're dysentery-producing berries that lead to vehicles splattered bumper-to-bumper, the driver only a blur behind the smeary windshield. A small price to pay for the spring cacophony of birds.

Out at Seven Mile Creek County Park, the wild ground plums, pussytoes and trout lilies are already strong and green, emerging from the brown-leafed floor.

I doubt those in Dallas or Phoenix are feeling the same lift of spirits these days as their brown, cool winter gives way to a brown, warm spring.

There is another benefit to the winter past. In the years ahead, as kids or grandkids complain of a cold winter, we can annoy them with our eye-rolling stories of that winter of '13-'14.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6383.