New Englanders have a reputation for being hardened and standoffish, often coming across unfriendly…at least at first. I was born in Connecticut, grew up in Vermont, and after roaming and living in various parts of the country for over a decade, find myself back in Vermont where I’ll be the first to agree: New Englanders can be cold. But in my humble opinion, it’s because New Englanders ARE cold, literally. The winters up here can be absolutely brutal. Weeks on end of frigid icy winds biting at your skin, and dreary gray skies. The weather alone is enough to put people in bad moods, but being cooped up in the house for days on end causes miserable cases of cabin fever.
According to numerous sources (mainly, facebook friends who posted links that I never actually opened), the month of February (2015) did not post one single day of temperatures above freezing.
Not one day.
But if you want to see some happy, joyful New Englanders, come visit us on the first day of sunshine and above freezing temps after a particularly hard winter.
Today, my friends, was simply MARVELOUS. The sun was shining and the thermometer reached a high of 53 degrees. FIFTY THREE! I would have hugged and high fived anyone I came across out of pure bliss, but there was no one to be found. So I did exactly what I have been waiting months to do: I hit the now almost 75% thawed out roads and went for a run.
Oh how my legs have been aching to get outside. Literally aching; the pain I’ve felt in my knees and feet from the way my the treadmill alters my gait was starting to become too much to bear. I donned a pair of trail shoes and took off down the muddy road. The sun on my shoulders and in my face was the most fantastic, welcomed feeling. The long, dreary winter that has pained all of us suddenly felt like it was just a distant memory. Birds were singing. Some sort of angry raptor type bird was screeching (Eagle? Hawk? Pterodactyl?) My stride came quickly and easily. I headed no more than a half a mile down a winding dirt road, eager for more, when I came around a sharp corner to find this:
The road simply ended. I’m not sure what constitutes the need for plowing in the State of Vermont, but clearly by whatever those standards are, this road was not deemed necessary. I debated heading down there anyway, but figured it would be a long trek in knee deep snow, and I was wearing shorts. I mean, FIFTY THREE DEGREES! Of course that is shorts weather!
For those of you who have been reading for some time know that I came to Vermont from sunny coastal South Carolina. And during my days on the beach, I would don a hooded sweatshirt the second the thermometer dipped below 68 degrees. Telling me I had to go run in barely 50 degree weather would likely be met with a sigh, eye roll, winter gloves, a hat, and my winter thermal running tights.
My, how times have changed.
But back to the story at hand: the road simply ended, but I didn’t want my outside time to end, so I ran down to the river instead. And by ran, I mean I walked in shin deep snow. At least this stretch had clearly been plowed once or twice, as it wasn’t nearly as deep as the rest of the snow. The trek was worth wet socks, as the melting river under the sun was stunning.
On the very edge of the riverbank, I spotted something that from afar that looked like a small fire ring. But quickly I realized it wasn’t the remnants of a fire at all, instead was some sort of circular design adorned with bright yellow flowers, daffodils I believe. As I approached for closer inspection, I silently hoped it wasn’t any sort of dead animal, either ceremonial or sacrificial (which I suppose is ceremonial). I’ve seen stranger things in Vermont. Turns out what I feared to be animal bones were actually chocolate covered pretzel rods. I kid you not.
So of course I do what any reasonable person in the year 2015 does, I took a picture, posted it to my Facebook wall, and asked friends and strangers alike, “What is this?”. Answers ranged from “aliens” to “bear scat” to “an offering to the snack gods”. My friends are hilarious. But then another friend privately messaged me and said he was 99% certain it was none of those things (you mean it’s NOT bear scat?) and instead was part of a Wiccan “farewell winter” ritual. Now this explanation I can believe, and find incredibly fitting for this run.
And whether we pray to a single God, the Mother Earth, or no one in particular, I think we can all agree: it’s time to say farewell to winter.
(Remind me of this when I’m suffering in…I mean adjusting to… the South Carolina humidity this August.)