Friday, March 27, 2009


Here in Oswego, we’ve been taught, over the course of our lifetimes, not to prematurely anticipate spring. When friends downstate start writing about the robins or the crocuses, when friends as nearby as Syracuse mention that they have their windows open, we’re still a little leery. We know that as soon as we dare to put even one sweater away, or as soon as we put the shovel in the garage or – worst of all – say “I’m so glad it’s finally spring” – we will pay a price. That price might be as innocuous as a few days of snow, it might be a damaging ice storm, or it might be a massive bring-you-to-your-knees-and-make-you-weep blizzard. So we’re generally circumspect, a little reluctant to concede that winter is over. The gods might be listening, and we’ve learned that they have, at the very least, a warped and wicked sense of humor.

That being said, I couldn’t help but notice that a handful of crocuses are sprouting in the backyard. I mentioned it to Leigh, who had already noticed but hadn’t said a word. (I’m not the only superstitious one in the house when it comes to weather matters.) I was visibly happy, which has been a rarity lately, so Leigh felt obligated to add “Well, before you get too happy...” I thought I knew what her next line was going to be – some insight into our weather forecast, an expectation of snow… but instead she said “The wood’s coming today.”

At the start of each winter we have wood delivered. That wood -- four to six logs crammed in a single wood stove every few hours, round the clock -- heats the house for roughly six months of the year. It’s our only source of heat and the house is fairly large – we need a lot of wood. This year, for the first time ever, we ran out. Although it’s nearly April, a time when plenty of people in the northeast are thinking about turning the heat down, we’re restocking. We’ve got plenty of cold nights and quite a few cold days still to come. And so, more wood.

Two cords of wood fill a dump truck, and it takes some tricky maneuvering to get that much wood dropped as near the house as possible. It’s important that it’s deposited close, as it needs to be stacked and nobody wants to have to haul it, piece by piece, in addition to stacking it. Leigh and “the wood guy” have finessed a system that culminates in his truck stopping about two feet away from the kitchen door. What that meant, unfortunately, was that either the truck or the wood would land directly on top of the young crocuses. The only way to avoid damaging them would be to move the wood further away, thereby increasing my workload by, say, a few more pulled muscles, a few extra hours of an aching back. I conceded that the crocuses would have to bear the weight of the wood, but didn’t want to witness them being crushed. I walked away.

An hour later, the wood arrived with a crash. It’s literally an earth-shaking endeavor, and I felt the house tremble, felt the ground rumble. I looked at the clock: 5:45 p.m. Crocus time-of-death.

An hour later I went downstairs. The wood guy had just about finished stacking the wood – a gift from Leigh to me. What took him an hour would have taken me a few; Leigh’s recuperating from surgery and not able to participate in any wood-related chores. I was elated to see the high, orderly piles of fresh-smelling split logs. She slipped him forty bucks and he was on his way. The house will be warm for the foreseeable future.

As we turned our attention to preparing dinner, Leigh looked out the window and said “Hey, check it out.” She pointed to the area where the crocuses had previously been poking through the soil. “Look at the tracks,” she said. The wood deliveryman had maneuvered his truck so that the tires missed hitting the crocuses by a hair. I could see a few crocuses sticking up, then a tire track, and on the other side of the track a few more crocuses. Both the heavy truck and the onslaught of wood had spared the flowers’ lives.

I felt like mine had been spared as well. I opened the window and could hear staggered lines of geese, way in the distance, coming home.


  1. Lovely story and I'm so happy the wood man missed the crocuses.

  2. The first two -- purple -- have opened!